Building a Healthy Mississippi

Over 3.2 Million Meals Provided to Mississippians

“The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation proudly supports Mississippi’s communities. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Foundation is supporting food banks across the state so that Mississippians will have access to healthy foods.” Sheila Grogan, President, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation

(May 2020) - As a result of a generous grant provided by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation to four food banks, over 3.2 million meals are being served to Mississippians. The Foundation’s partnership with Mississippi Food Network, Mid-South Food Bank, Feeding the Gulf Coast and Extra Table ensures that food is procured, distributed to local pantries, and made available to Mississippi’s children and adults who need nutritious foods to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the Foundation’s partnership with Mississippi Food Network, many children’s bodies and minds are being fueled with a bag of food – a bag of hope. The foods are all child friendly and can be prepared by the children themselves, if their parents are at work. Arionna Miller is one of the children Mississippi Food Network serves in Grenada. Arionna would usually attend an after-school program where she would receive a snack. Due to COVID-19, the after-school program is closed; however, the program’s employees are distributing bags of healthy snacks and breakfast items to the children’s homes. Arionna said, “I am very thankful for my bag of snacks, especially my cereal for breakfast.”

Two grandmothers from Sunflower County who play significant roles in raising their grandchildren, recently found it difficult to obtain food for their families. They must travel approximately 45 minutes to a grocery store to buy food, but due to COVID-19, the grocery store has limited hours and supplies. While waiting in their vehicle to receive boxes of food at a mobile food pantry, the two ladies explained to Mississippi Food Network, “The food we are getting today helps ease some of the burden of providing food for our families.”

A citizen of Laurel, Bunny Reed has a good outlook on life, despite the fact her family is facing COVID-19 and the aftermath of the Easter tornadoes. Like many Mississippians, she worries we are facing a new normal for an undetermined amount of time with COVID-19 and how some people, for the first time in their lives, do not have food. As Mrs. Reed got in her car to pick up her food from Mississippi Food Network, she stated, “This food helps me have a little more peace of mind knowing everything will be alright.”

“Our mobile pantries provide more than food right now – they also provide an opportunity for people to interact with others, all while following the social distancing guidelines," said Marilyn Blackledge, the director of community affairs for Mississippi Food Network. "Although observing social distancing and wearing gloves and masks are challenging for our staff and volunteers, giving a smile to people facing food insecurity is rewarding, even from behind the masks."

Many individuals being served through the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation’s partnership with Extra Table, are seniors and the disabled. Most weeks more than 1,800 meals are prepared and delivered to seniors living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. One meal recipient remarked, “These healthy meals are heaven sent!”

During Mother’s Day weekend, Extra Table provided healthy meals, snacks and beverages to seniors living at Wesley Manor in Hattiesburg. Mary Kim, the director at Wesley Manor, was thankful for the “wonderful difference the food made in so many lives.”

Martha Allen, executive director for Extra Table, said of the Foundation, “Your generous gift is possibly the most timely gift Extra Table has ever received.”

In partnership with the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, volunteers with Feeding the Gulf Coast act as the hands and feet of the organization’s efforts. These passionate volunteers dedicate many hours to helping feed south Mississippi. “We want to honor them as often as possible because our work truly is not possible without them,” said Cyndy Baggett, Vice President of Development and Marketing.

Jourdan Hartshorn recently began volunteering with Feeding the Gulf Coast and quickly became one of the organization’s biggest advocates. Volunteering at a mobile pantry in Wiggins, Jourdan spoke to a food box recipient who told him, “This is my first time coming to pick up food for my household. I was working but work stopped due to COVID-19.”

Providing Support to Food Banks Across Mississippi

(March 2020) - With a vision for a healthy Mississippi, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has provided generous grant funds to multiple food banks across the state as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthy nutrition is an important part of everyday well-being, and COVID-19 is amplifying the need for individuals to have access to healthy foods.

The Foundation’s partnership with Mississippi food banks ensures that food is procured, distributed to local pantries, and made available to children and adults who need nutritious foods to thrive. For all Mississippians impacted and in need of food, the Foundation is responding and connecting to those in need with grant support to Mississippi food banks.

Mississippi Food Network

Mississippi Food Network’s (MFN) service area consists of 56 counties in the central part of the state, servicing 228 food pantries. Affiliated with Feeding America, MFN provides food to Mississippians who have unexpected needs due to unemployment or medical needs, and provides food to seniors, children and disabled individuals with no regard to economic, education, racial or cultural circumstances.

“We appreciate our partnership with the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation during these unprecedented times. Their investment in our organization is an investment in the people of Mississippi and will help us provide food assistance to those who need our services. Working together we can help each other through these unfamiliar times.” - Charles Beady, CEO, Mississippi Food Network

Mid-South Food Bank

Specifically serving 18 counties and 40 pantries in North Mississippi, Mid-South Food Bank in partnership with Feeding America, provides food to low-income families and seniors at risk of food insecurity and hunger. The organization’s mission is to impact lives by providing individuals with nutritious foods to lead healthy lives.

“With 18 counties to serve in north Mississippi, including some of the poorest regions and largest food deserts in the nation, Mid-South Food Bank is incredibly grateful to Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation for their generous support of our efforts in the state. Working with our partner food pantries and sending our trucks on mobile food distributions, these funds will have a tremendous impact on alleviating food insecurity and hunger in North Mississippi, today.” – Cathy Pope, President and CEO, Mid-South Food Bank

Feeding the Gulf Coast

As a member of Feeding America, Feeding the Gulf Coast’s eight-county service area in South Mississippi includes a variety of individuals, many in high-risk categories for poverty and health disparities. The organization works to provide communities with nourishing foods in 86 food pantries to build stronger, healthier families.

“The food bank is experiencing an influx of heightened need from those impacted by COVID-19. School closures and local job layoffs have led to an unprecedented increase in need among those who typically may not experience food insecurity. Individuals who struggled prior to the crisis are now in an even more critical situation, compounded by the economic stress COVID-19 has created in our communities. This generous grant from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation provides a profoundly impactful opportunity for Feeding the Gulf Coast to gain access to additional resources that will provide nutritious hunger-relief to so many in need. Feeding the Gulf Coast is incredibly grateful for this partnership and support to address this growing health crisis along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast." – Dan Emery, President and CEO, Feeding the Gulf Coast

Extra Table

Extra Table has partnerships with 45 food pantries across 27 Mississippi counties with a goal of feeding the most people with the healthiest foods. In addition to the food pantries and with a mission to solve hunger, the organization provides food for school feeding programs and senior “meals on wheels” programs across the state.

“Now more than ever, it is an honor and a privilege for Extra Table to partner with Mississippi’s premier health and wellness champion, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, in order to get good food to the masses in the midst of this pandemic. It is hard for many of us to wrap our minds around hunger. Being hungry. Doing without. Most of us cannot comprehend the need of so many Mississippians on a regular day-much less a day in the COVID-19 crisis. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is an incredible partner and understands the immediate need to get food to the four corners of our state.” – Martha Allen, Executive Director, Extra Table

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has a vision for a healthy Mississippi through targeted grant funding focused on healthy initiatives to support our schools and communities. As COVID-19 continues to impact the state, partnering with food banks to ensure Mississippians receive nourishing foods makes the Foundation’s vision a reality to those with food insecurity.

Elementary student Arionna Miller enjoys a healthy snack. (Image courtesy of Mississippi Food Network)

Mississippi Food Network volunteers arrive in Sunflower County with a mobile food pantry. (Image courtesy of Mississippi Food Network)

A Feeding the Gulf Coast volunteer prepares bags of fresh vegetables for distribution. (Image courtesy of Feeding the Gulf Coast)

A volunteer with Feeding the Gulf Coast gives away bags of food at a mobile pantry. (Image courtesy of Feeding the Gulf Coast

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