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Agriculture Department, Mississippi Agencies, Others Join Forces in 2015 Statewide Summer Food Service Program Kickoff to Feed Children in Poverty

CLARKSDALE, Miss., June 2, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Officials from the Agriculture Department, Magnolia Health and the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools today launched a statewide summer food service program to provide more than 2 million healthy meals to impoverished areas across the state. The Agriculture Department targeted Mississippi and 12 other states to boost the program in 2015.

Other states include: Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.

"Children need good nutrition all year long. When school lets out, millions of low-income children no longer have access to a healthy school breakfast or lunch," said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Regional Administrator Robin Bailey. "USDA's summer meal programs help fill the gap for children who depend on free and reduced-price meals when they are in school."

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) will provide more than 37,639 meals a day in Mississippi – two meals a day per child – for a total of 2.53 million meals throughout the summer of 2015. That's an increase of 10 percent over the 2.3 million meals (34,218 per day) provided last year. Meals will be provided at schools, mobile sites, low-income housing units, religious institutions, and more.

"Our children are our future, and we must provide them with a healthy lifestyle so they can reach for their dreams," said Jason B. Dees, president and CEO of Magnolia Health. "We are committed to delivering good, nutritious food throughout the summer to children across the state, while improving healthy outcomes. It starts with one child and one family at a time."

The food program was announced at the Coahoma County High School in Clarksdale by officials from the Agriculture Department, Magnolia Health, MDEO OHS, the Public Policy Center of Mississippi and other local, state and national organizations.

To boost awareness of the program, additional Summer Food Service Program launch events are slated over the next month across the state in Clarksdale, Miss., Biloxi, Miss., Jackson, Miss., and other key cities.

The SFSP is a USDA Food and Nutrition (USDA FNS) initiative to reduce food scarcity for children living in districts where 50 percent or more of the child population qualifies for free or reduced lunch. One-third of Mississippi's children live in homes where access to good, nutritious food on a regular basis is limited, according to the USDA.

Last year, nearly 500 sites across Mississippi served about 2.3 million meals to children living in poverty stricken areas. Magnolia Health and the Public Policy Center of Mississippi will continue to work with the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools and USDA FNS to sponsor regional events to provide free meals to school-aged children across the state.

About The Public Policy Center of Mississippi

The Public Policy Center of Mississippi believes all people deserve good, nutritious food at affordable costs. The center works with national and state hunger initiatives, advocates, organizers, and program leaders to address the growing problem of hunger and poor nutrition in Mississippi. Currently more than one fifth of Mississippians live in hunger – and many of these are children. The PPCM is committed to making a difference by connecting Mississippians to each other and to food security. Whether it is through the USDA Summer Food Service Program, SNAP benefits, WIC, food sustainability programs, and much more, the time is now for Mississippi to become No. 1 in food security. Together we can connect Mississippi to good food and good nutrition. To learn more, visit www.connectingmississippi.org.

About Magnolia Health

Magnolia Health is a long-term solution to help the state of Mississippi enhance care for Medicaid and CHIP recipients, while most effectively managing taxpayer dollars. A physician-driven, Mississippi-based Coordinated Care Organization (CCO), Magnolia is backed by its parent company, Centene Corporation (Centene). Centene has more than 30 years of experience in Medicaid, CHIP and other government-funded programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and long-term care. For more information about Magnolia, visit www.magnoliahealthplan.com.

CONTACT: Benjamin Russell 601.850.6625 brussell@ppcms.org Todd Smith 601.460.0705 todd@deanesmithpartners.com

Source:Magnolia Health