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Mark Rigsby - MPB News

More than 20% of people in Mississippi live in what's called a "food desert", where there's limited access to nutritious food. Limited food options can lead to obesity and other health problems. As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, there's a fresh food distribution program helping people on Medicaid make ends meet.

On a hot July afternoon, Kristine Bielefeld goes to the Multi-County Community Agency in Meridian to pick up two bags of free food from the "Farm to Fork" program.
"It helps us stretch because with finances struggling, every bit of food helps," says Bielefeld.

She's a mother and a grandmother, who feeds eight people a day in her household.

"I do this because it helps my famil, as well as, when I have extra, they're always welcome in my house," says Bielefeld.

The program is administered by Alcorn State University Extension and United Health Care Community Plan. April Weathers is a community outreach specialists with United Health Care.

"Some people are down to their very last vegetable in their pantry," says Weathers.

"What kind of food are you giving away?"

"We're giving away vegetables, organic vegetables. Sweet potatoes, corn, green peppers, onions, cabbage, turnips, and the list goes on," says Weathers.

The "food desert" problem seems to be worse in the Delta, where there's one supermarket per 190 square miles. A 2015 study by the USDA found low income people with low access to nutritious food buy fewer fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk products, and buy more red meat and soda. The food distribution will continue through September, at 16 sites across the state.