Group offers free fruits and veggies to 100 Stone families

Out of every three children in Stone County, one child struggles with hunger, according to a Mississippi coast non-profit.

To fill those children’s needs, Feeding the Gulf Coast will provide 100 families with fresh fruits and vegetables from 11:30 am until 12:30 at the Stone County Library on July 28, 2020.

“The produce drop will provide enough food for 100 families, approximately 50 pounds per family,” said Lana Martin, the Mississippi child nutrition program manager for the organization.

Throughout the country, poverty primarily causes child hunger.

Mississippi is one of eight states in the nation with the highest rates of food insecurity, according to the United Health Foundation. Mississippi’s food intercity rate is nearly 19 percent, slightly ahead of Louisiana and Alabama.

Rural areas have higher rates of food insecurity. Fifteen percent compared with nearly 12 percent of families living in more urban areas, according to a separate study by UHF.

Martin said the location was chosen due to Stone County’s child food-insecurity rate of nearly 32 percent.

“The focus of the produce drop is to provide more nutritious food to children in rural areas,” Martin said.

Feeding the Gulf Coast’s ultimate mission is to provide nutritious food to people who are hungry as a result of “systemic poverty, personal crisis or disaster,” according to their website.

Martin said no proof of income or residency is needed to receive a produce bundle.

“The only requirement is that the parent must be accompanied with a child, age 18 or younger,” she said.

The organization, which also has branches serving in Alabama and Florida, has a location in Gulfport.

Martin said the organization works closely with local farmers to purchase fresh produce thanks to the Feeding America Multi-Donor Rural Summer Feeding grant.

They also work with other organizations to provide free meals.

“Feeding the Gulf Coast operates the Summer Meals Program with partner sites in the area where children, ages 18 and younger, can receive free meals while schools are closed for the summer,” Martin said. “What better way to ensure the children have access to enough nutritious food then providing boxes of fresh produce.”