BILOXI, Miss., June 02, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Officials from the Agriculture Department, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Magnolia Health and the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools today launched a statewide summer food service program to provide nearly 3 million healthy meals to impoverished areas across the state.
Beginning in 2013, The Agriculture Department targeted Mississippi and 21 other states to boost the program.
Other states include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, 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 40,939 meals a day in Mississippi – up to two meals a day per child in some locations – for a total of 2.78 million meals throughout the summer of 2016. That’s an increase of 10 percent over the 2.5 million meals (37,218 per day) provided last year. Meals will be provided at schools, HUD multi-family housing complexes, recreation centers, low-income housing units, religious institutions, and more.
“This is a vital, life-saving initiative. Our children are our future, and we must provide them with a healthy lifestyle so they can reach for their dreams,” said Aaron Sisk, 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 Feeding the Gulf Coast in Biloxi by officials from the Agriculture Department, HUD, Magnolia Health, MDE OHS and other local, state and national organizations.
“There is no reason for a child in America to go hungry, but it is a sad reality for many kids in Mississippi. We can change it, one feeding site at a time,” said HUD Mississippi field office director Jerrie G. Magruder. “It is a network of nutrition that we can grow organically, relentlessly. Our combined efforts make a difference; the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority No .VI just added six new feeding sites. We can do this.”
An added feature to this year’s program is a user-friendly site locater, a convenient tool for children, parents, and community leaders to find their nearest summer meal sites. The Summer Meal Site Finder is a free, web-based application that features an easily-searchable map to help locate sites serving summer meals. You can also call 1-866-348-6479 (English) or 1-877-842-6273 (Spanish) to find a site near you. Or text FOOD (English) or COMIDA (Spanish) to 877-877, operated by a USDA partner, to find your nearest site. Also, families can call 2-1-1 to find nearby sites.
To boost awareness of the program, additional Summer Food Service Program launch events are slated over the next two months across the state in Jackson, Miss., and other locations.
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 2.5 million meals to children living in poverty stricken areas. Magnolia Health will continue to work with the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy Schools, USDA FNS and HUD to sponsor regional events to provide free meals to school-aged children across the state.
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.