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Child hunger is on the rise in Mississippi

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The Mississippi Food Network during a drive-thru food pantry.
MS Food Network

Child hunger is on the rise across the country as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And some of the most food insecure communities in the nation are located in Mississippi.

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Mississippi has the country’s highest rate of projected food insecurity in 2020. According to the nonprofit Save the Children, one in three children in Mississippi is experiencing hunger. That's up from one in four children prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

"When schools abruptly closed in March, that was the only place that some children had a sustainable meal," said Yolanda Minor, Save the Children Deputy State Director.

"So now they're home and they don't have those meals. So we need to make sure that we are providing those resources necessary for the children even during this time of uncertainty."

Minor says rural communities in Mississippi and families of color are disproportionately affected. Studies show Bolivar and Jefferson Davis counties both had child food insecurity rates that fell in the state’s bottom 25 percent even before the pandemic began.

Kelly Mott, with the Mississippi Food Network, says they've distributed 13 million more pounds of food to children and families in Mississippi than they did this time last year. She says by increasing their mobile food pantries, it has allowed them to reach more families in need.

"We will go to an agency or to a location. We bring our refrigerated truck, various volunteers, and we've been having drive-thru food pantries," said Mott. "Folks drive their cars up, they open their trunks, and we put boxes of food in there."

Mott says they've sponsored more than 60 mobile food pantries serving almost 30,000 Mississippi families since March.