Utica Food Club: Fighting a Food Desert with Community Organizing

Utica Food Club: Fighting a Food Desert with Community Organizing

Access to quality food is crucial to UProot’s highest priorities: obesity and the social determinants of health (SDOH)

After a grocery store left Utica, Mississippi, residents organized to address the fact that their community had become a food desert.

Utica: From agricultural haven to food desert

Since the ’90s, the economy and population of Utica have been declining. Schools and plants closed, ending relationships with the local Sunflower grocery store and leaving fewer people to travel into town as customers. Finally, in 2014, the store closed, turning Utica into a food desert. The nearest grocery store was in Clinton, 30 miles away. 

In 2023, the Mississippi Free Press interviewed Jean Greene of Utica as part of a story on food deserts. When asked about the grocery store closure, she said, “It was an economic decision…  And so the rest of us paid the price for that economic decision.” 

Though the grocery store’s closure was the final step to becoming a food desert, it was a shock to long-time Utica residents. Like many towns in Mississippi, Utica has a long history of food production and agricultural education. 

Last century, Utica was home to the Utica Institute, founded in 1903 by William H. Holtzclaw, an agriculturalist whose mentor was Booker T. Washington. 

Holtzclaw sought to educate African Americans in Mississippi’s “Black Belt” by replicating the Tuskegee educational experience.

The Utica Institute became Utica Junior College, which merged with Hinds Community College in 1982. Until 2014, the town hosted the Hinds County Agricultural High School, part of the Hinds Community College system.

Utica only has a population of around 600. The town didn’t think a large grocer would be willing to come, so they investigated some alternatives.

The town organizes

Enter Sipp Culture, a group founded in Utica to use arts and culture to help the town solve its food crisis. They partnered with the municipal government and started a farm, a community garden, and a farmer’s market.

That was only their first step. They found another partner, the Jackson Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, and launched a program to support rural artists. This action earned them a large grant from One Nation/One Project, an organization that leverages the arts to create healthier people and communities.

“Sipp Culture believes that gathering and sharing local stories is the best way to support safe and thriving communities for the future.”

How did the community come together and start this project?

First, they gathered the community and listened. As demonstrated by Operation Shoestring, listening to the community is vital for any effort towards improving SDOH. Sipp Culture needed to see what the community wanted to do. They made sure that representatives from the culture, agriculture, business, education, and local government sectors were on hand when they held community meetings. 

Using those tools, they determined where people were shopping, and what drove their decision to do so. They discovered that people were driving up to an hour just to buy fresh meat and produce.

They then researched models for alternatives to big grocers. Many of the future members of the Utica Food Club had known of or done business with a cooperative grocery in Jackson. Others had used farmer’s markets and community gardens.

Then, they identified the items that people wanted to purchase in bulk. They focused on staple foods, which are easily transported and stored without refrigeration.

Next, they identified vendors who would sell them, and began the task of figuring out where these staple items – and harder-to-store things that would require refrigeration, could be housed. The storage question was helped by their partnership with the municipality, which knew what buildings were suitable for the project – and available.

After that, the group began to exchange information and ideas. They discussed strategies and techniques for storing and transporting food, preserving it and making bulk purchases. They coordinated those purchases, becoming a food-buying club. Food buying clubs are a way for individuals to purchase food at wholesale prices, and then split the purchases up, circumventing a traditional grocer.

While the buying club, farmer’s market, and community garden have all helped to address the food desert in Utica, there is much more to be done. For now, Sipp Culture and the Utica Food Club are researching more and seeking financial and educational support from the FDA, the USDA, and co-op support organizations. Their partnership with One Nation/One Project and the artists supported by Sipp Culture’s Rural Performance Production Lab have shown them the power of these relationships, and now they are seeking out local churches to recruit volunteers and further support.

In 2023, Sipp Culture hosted the international musical youth of OneBeat.

lessons for your community

The lessons learned from the Utica Food Club echo those of the ARK and Operation Shoestring: Teamwork and homework.

Listen to the community.

Identify partners.

Do the research.

Find a model you can emulate.

Every step was driven by community education and the equal exchange of information. Food deserts are a crisis in Mississippi, one that many UProot partners attempt to address.

If you know of someone out there who is working hard to make Mississippi a healthier place, let us know!

Solutions for Food Insecurity Will Take Many Partners: 2023 Mississippi Hunger Summit

Solutions for Food Insecurity Will Take Many Partners: 2023 Mississippi Hunger Summit

The 2023 Mississippi Hunger Summit was an example of Mississippi public health organizations doing what they do best: coming together as partners to address our state’s critical issues.

In October 2023, the University of Mississippi CREW (Community First Research Center for Wellbeing & Creative Achievement) hosted the Mississippi Hunger Summit. Food access was a key component of the summit. As shown in presentations, food insecurity is an issue with effects that affect everything from mental health to education performance to obesity and health outcomes. With so many issues affected, welcoming input from a wide range of partners offers the best opportunity for innovative solutions.

One of the pillars of our work at UProot (you can read about it in our State Health Improvement Plan) is to tackle Food Insecurity. Food Insecurity is when people do not have enough quality food to ensure their health. This can mean insufficient food, or that the only available food does not provide the variety and nutrition required for good health.

Food Insecurity is linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, stroke, and dementia. It also has a direct link to obesity. The reason is simple: When good food is hard to come by, families have no choice but to eat poorly. You can measure the accessibility of fresh, wholesome food in an area, and in many places in Mississippi, a lack of this constitutes what is known as aFood Desert.The distribution of these areas makes Food Insecurity a classic example of a Social Determinant of Health (SDOH).

Watch a clip from the opening remarks here:

Food Insecurity and Mental Health

Since hunger touches on many aspects of health, there was much to discuss, including the role of hunger and food insecurity on mental health. There are many connections between nutrition and mental health. Some are more obvious, such as the role of blood sugar in alertness or how the brain uses B vitamins and omega acids. Others are less obvious. Scott Hambleton, MD, Medical Director of the Mississippi Health Plan, also discussed the connection between the gut and the brain, a new area of interest that may become a powerful way of understanding mental and physical health that links both to the conditions in a community.

Food Insecurity’s Effects on Children

Children are especially vulnerable to food insecurity. The interplay between mental health, physical health, and the environment is precisely the sort of scenario that the SDOH concept attempts to address. 

From Dr. Hambleton’s presentation; “Nourishing the Mind: The Connection Between Nutrition and Mental Health”

Uproot Partners in Action

Several UProot partners attended. The Mississippi Food Network presented information about food pantry resources.

From MS Food Network Presentation

While many people want to help with food insecurity, it takes skill to provide food safely and effectively for many people. These requirements, why they are in place, and what they achieve, were the focus of one of MFN’s presentations. 

The 430 agencies that are part of the Mississippi Food Network are a testament to the number of people helping with food insecurity in Mississippi. It’s a big problem, and one a large number of Mississippians are eager to end.

To learn more about how to partner with the Mississippi Food Network, go to their website.

View a slideshow of photos from the 2023 Hunger Summit here.

You can help, too. UProot is all about ways to build a healthier Mississippi

Education: A Tool to Tackle Diabetes

Education: A Tool to Tackle Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month, which focuses on diabetes prevention. Learning about simple lifestyle and nutrition tips can help manage or even prevent the onset of diabetes for Mississippians. We can all benefit when we educate ourselves about diabetes.

First, the basics: there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually develops early in life, due to genetics and the environment. It cannot be prevented. This type is rare: only one in two hundred people has type one diabetes. One in seven Mississippians is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 develops later in life as a response to insulin levels brought on by obesity, a lack of physical activity, and genetics. There are more than twice as many people with diabetes in Mississippi than live in Jackson.

Misunderstandings about diabetes and its dangers persist. You may have heard “diabetes isn’t that bad” from someone who’s had it for years and keeps saying “well, it hasn’t killed me yet.”

Yet diabetes can lead to death, blindness, and amputation. But most insidiously, diabetes makes other health problems harder to treat, from high blood pressure to simple wounds. It dramatically increases your risk of other health conditions such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. 

New treatments and techniques are successful at putting type 2 diabetes into remission. These days, type 2 diabetes – the kind that develops later in life – can be put into remission with a regimen of medication, weight loss, and exercise. People are finding freedom. The earlier you start these interventions, the more effective they are, so it’s vital to get regular checkups from a health care provider. The Mississippi State Department of Health offers free blood glucose checks at every county health department. Walk-ins are welcome, or you may call 855‑767‑0170 to schedule an appointment. 

A final misconception is that the lifestyle changes that prevent and manage diabetes are too complicated or difficult for the average person to achieve. 

While the changes can seem daunting at first, most of them are small, sensible, and available to people at any age. The Mississippi State Department of Health offers free, small group, classes to address the challenges of preventing and managing diabetes. To learn more about these offerings visit www.healthyms.com/diabetes 

These changes become a part of our culture when Mississippians come together to support each other in making positive changes. Uproot Mississippi, a collaborative effort between nearly a hundred partner organizations across the state, works to build a culture of health in Mississippi. If you think you need help figuring out which steps are right for you, and how to take them, there are lots of individuals and communities across the state providing homegrown inspiration. Visit www.uprootms.org/ican  for more information.

Start Here to Learn Everyday Wellness Tips

Start Here to Learn Everyday Wellness Tips

We all know what the new school year means for children returning to class, but there are opportunities for Mississippians of all ages to learn, too! From managing chronic diseases to improving your overall health, free classes are available with the latest information. Read on for resources that make everyday wellness easier, and prove that it’s never too late to learn something new, especially when it comes to your health.

Getting Familiar with Chronic Disease

The first step to building any health plan is getting familiar with the health conditions that impact your day-to-day life. Knowing how actions, foods, or lifestyle habits can affect your progress is essential to pin down before taking that first step.

In Mississippi, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity are the most common, and most deadly, chronic diseases for residents. Cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, is the third leading cause of death for Mississippians. Diabetes affects 1 in 7 Mississippi residents, and is made worse by obesity, which affects 42% of adults in the state. Click here to learn more about these chronic conditions.

Mississippi State Department of Health

From workshops on self-managing chronic disease to preventative health resources, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) offers a variety of tools that make building healthy habits easier. These resources are free and help take the stress out of taking that first step toward wellness. 

Health Management Classes

For those looking for more guidance on making healthier choices, there are free health management classes available. These aren’t bootcamps–they are programs that meet national standards and offer real, sustainable, and actionable ways to improve your day-to-day food and exercise habits. Check out this interactive site map to see what classes are available in your area! 

Spread the Word

Sharing this article with someone you know–a neighbor, friend, or family member–not only helps them reach their personal health goals but can have a positive ripple effect on our state’s health. So, spread the word, share resources, and help inspire those in your network to take that first step to building healthier habits. 

Ask your doctor about help enrolling in free preventive health classes. Or download this form and bring it to your nearest MSDH health center.  

Work Plan Spotlight: What Does Internet Access Have to Do with Health?

Work Plan Spotlight: What Does Internet Access Have to Do with Health?

Mississippi will receive $1.2 billion from the federal government to expand broadband service to approximately 300,000 unserved locations across the state. This exciting development will create more opportunities for communities to get the care they need, through online health services like telehealth!

Benefits of Telehealth

The 2022 State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP), developed after engaging more than 19,000 residents, public health professionals, and community partners across the state, lists telehealth as a major resource for improving preventative health access in Mississippi. 

That’s because telehealth, defined in the SHIP as “the use of technology to deliver personal health information and services”, connects families to resources like telemedicine, online therapy, healthcare resource directories, and health education that make it easy to get care. It’s more effective to prevent a health crisis from occurring than it is to treat it once it’s happened. 

Social Determinants of Health

The 2022 SHIP organizes its work into two big categories: reducing obesity & chronic disease and improving social determinants of health. The social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions and environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age. 

In rural areas of the state, where residents are more likely to need treatment and preventative care for chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, broadband expansion couldn’t come sooner. Right now, nearly 20% (18.1%) of households in the Mississippi Delta have no access to broadband. As internet access becomes more available, so will telehealth services that work to improve health outcomes in these areas. 

Our Goals

As the state closes the digital divide, we will utilize our network and partnerships to provide information on telehealth services as they become more available. Our goal is to increase the use of telehealth by at least 10% in the next five years in order to improve health outcomes in our state. We’re connecting organizations like the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Mississippi Rural Health Association to help make that happen.

Click here to learn more about the latest State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) and how you can help improve our state’s health. Then, show us how you’re improving community health by sending us your success story! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.

Q&A with T.J. Mayfield

Q&A with T.J. Mayfield

TJ Mayfield, Executive Director of the Mississippi Kidney Foundation

TJ Mayfield, Executive Director of the Mississippi Kidney Foundation, talks about the exciting work happening at the Foundation, and shares tips local organizations can follow to help improve health outcomes for our state. Read on to learn more! 

Why is preventing kidney disease so important in Mississippi?

Kidney disease is often called “the silent killer,” because it is not often talked about, even though it is the 9th leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are the three leading causes of kidney failure–and in Mississippi we have high rates of all three. 

Oftentimes, people don’t take their kidneys’ health seriously until something bad happens–they fail or you get kidney stones–but it can be too late by that point. That’s why we need to have more open conversations about kidney disease and kidney health, so we can have better health outcomes in Mississippi. 

What does the Mississippi Kidney Foundation do to positively impact the state?

At the Mississippi Kidney Foundation, we advocate, educate on kidney disease, and plan special projects with local organizations to improve health outcomes in the state. 

Recently, we celebrated World Kidney Day at the Capitol. It was a great event! We reached out to a couple of legislators, even though they’re wrapping up the legislative session, and talked about Medicaid expansion in the state.

In Mississippi, people continue to die from a lack of adequate care. There are people who work, but don’t have health coverage, and as a result postpone vital screening or treatments until they’re already in kidney failure. Expanding Medicaid can help those folks get treated, and can be one way that we can prevent kidney disease in Mississippi.

We also spoke to people about managing their kidney health and about disease prevention. There were so many people willing to share their stories and talk about someone they knew who had kidney failure, whether that person was a friend, family member, or parent. It was inspiring, and really drove home how important this work is. 

What projects are you excited about? 

I’m really excited about our current project with Jackson State University, the Health Equity Coalition, and the Mississippi State Department of Health. 

We’re traveling around the state and educating kids on diabetes, high blood pressure, and other risk factors for kidney disease–and we’re doing it in a different way. 

How is this project making a difference? How were you able to get schools on board?

I taught high school for six years, and that experience helped me when working with schools and scheduling events around state testing and so on. I also learned that the number one thing to do is meet the kids where they are. That frames our work with this project–meeting kids where they are and showing them how their food choices can impact their health in the future. 

A lot of the students I spoke to drink sugary beverages like Gatorade or CapriSun early in the morning, but don’t think anything of it because they haven’t been told how sugar can impact their health. 

It can be difficult for kids to make healthy food decisions, especially when there’s so much marketing dedicated to processed foods. Kids may see their favorite athlete eat or drink things that aren’t very healthy–not realizing that the celebrity is doing that to make money, not as part of their daily routine. So, breaking down how processed foods act on the body, and how to enjoy them in moderation, helps kids build healthy habits.

We’ve already been to two school districts: Coahoma County and East Tallahatchie School District. We have seven more school districts to cover–spanning from North Mississippi to the Central and South regions of the state–and will continue to educate students for another year and a half. From the information gathered during this project, I want to help build a health-based curriculum that all public schools in the state can follow. 

How can local organizations get more involved, not only with this project, but with other campaigns in their community?

Organizations can always get involved by using what they already know to help improve their communities.

Sanderson Farms, for example, has helped support our statewide project by donating about 220 pounds of chicken for us to use to cook fresh meals, like grilled chicken and vegetables, for students to enjoy. Sanderson Farms may not have the capacity to talk about healthy eating, but through their donation, they’re helping us show people how to eat healthy, and in turn, improve health outcomes across the state. 

We have so many organizations around Mississippi that are working toward the same goals, like lowering diabetes and obesity rates. By collaborating, they can make those efforts go further–and be more effective since they know their communities best. They can also join our project–we welcome any organization that wants to help!

In your opinion, what does it mean to create a culture of health?

For me, to create a culture of health is to have more conversations about health in our communities. We talk about everything–sports, music, family–but it’s almost taboo for a lot of people to talk about their health problems. I think normalizing conversations around health—physical, mental, and emotional health–is very important. 

How can communities get involved with the Mississippi Kidney Foundation?

Feel free to email me (tj@kidneyms.org)  or Vicki McIntosh (vicki@kidneyms.org). You can also call (601)-981-3611 or reach out to us on our website or on social media

Any way you can reach out, please do–we’d be happy to have you volunteer! We have a kidney walk coming up in October, and would love volunteers to help us set up, and for people to come out and walk in support of kidney disease prevention.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience?

Take care of your kidneys! Be an advocate for yourself when you go to the doctor. If something feels wrong, have the doctor check. And drink plenty of water, especially now that the weather is getting warmer.

Responses edited for brevity and clarity. Views expressed in interviews published on this site are solely those of the interviewees.

Here’s How the Freedom Project Network is Changing Lives

Here’s How the Freedom Project Network is Changing Lives

From after-school programs to community organizing, The Freedom Project Network (FPN) is helping boost health and life outcomes for residents in Sunflower, Meridian, and Rosedale, Mississippi.  

Inspired by the 1964 Freedom Schools, Freedom Project Network was founded in 2016 with the focus on improving student achievement and leadership. This initial focus was in response to the low graduation and college-readiness rates present across the Mississippi Delta. 

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that within FPN’s service area, the number of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher can be 7% lower than the state average. FPN’s work is helping change that, and the benefits can last a lifetime. 

Students with a bachelor’s degree earn up to $900,000 more in their lifetime than students with only a high-school diploma. With this additional income, residents are able to lead healthier lives and afford property closer to food and healthcare services. But, education isn’t FPN’s only focus area.

In recent years, FPN has expanded its work to include community engagement, environmental conservation, and so much more. Last year they hosted a local event, called a Community Health Carnival, that brought together local health-related organizations from around the state in order to boost health literacy and help people find care near them. The participating organizations set up booths, shared pamphlets, and delivered valuable health services to carnival-goers like blood pressure screenings and COVID-19 vaccines. Carnival-goers were also able to enjoy healthy food options, attend exercise classes, and learn more about health services near them.

By increasing literacy, college readiness, and access to health resources, The Freedom Project is helping improve the quality of life in the Mississippi Delta on all fronts, and that’s something we can all get behind. Click here to learn more about Freedom Project Network! Be sure to follow them on Facebook to get updates on their events and community work. 

Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.

Growing Healthy Waves: Sharing Lessons for Life

Growing Healthy Waves: Sharing Lessons for Life

Increasing the number of food and nutrition education programs is always a good thing, especially in schools. Nutrition education has far-reaching and life-long benefits. Kids who participate in a nutrition education program increase their daily consumption of fruit and vegetables and are more likely to make healthier food choices as they get older. 

In Mississippi, where nearly 73% of the obese population are children between 10 and 17 years old, increasing food and nutrition education can help create a healthier state. In this article, we’ll take a look at Growing Healthy Waves, a Tupelo-based initiative, focused on boosting food and nutrition education in Tupelo public schools. Read on to learn more! 

Growing Healthy Waves, “Wave” being a nod to the local school district mascot “The Golden Wave”, aims to “get kids excited about healthy eating” in more ways than one. Through their partnership with the Mississippi Farm-to-School Program, GHW is able to connect Tupelo public schools to local farms and facilitate activities for students of all grade levels to learn more about where their food comes from. These activities are diverse, hands-on, and involve essential parts of the food system–growing and processing. 

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A post shared by Growing Healthy Waves (@growinghealthywaves)

Students plant seeds, visit local farms, learn healthy recipes, and cook meals. GHW will also invite educators, such as dietitians or nutritionists, to come to schools and lead cooking demos or share information on healthy eating. GHW’s holistic approach to food education helps students engage and take to heart the lessons learned about maintaining a healthy diet. 

We’re proud to spotlight Growing Healthy Waves as an example of how impactful community-focused organizations can be in creating healthier outcomes for our state. Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates on their work! 

Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.

The Great Work Happening at the Good Samaritan Center

The Great Work Happening at the Good Samaritan Center

Our community partner, the Good Samaritan Center, also known locally as “Good Sam” has provided food assistance, clothing, and community support services to the Jackson-Metro area for over 40 years. 

Their mission is to create a “network of helping hands” in order to better serve residents in need. Doing so not only builds the quality of life in our state’s capital, but also the quality of health. Read on to learn more! 

It’s reported that 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 5 children face hunger in Mississippi. In Hinds County, as many as 13,400 children face food insecurity. Food insecurity is a serious issue, not only because of the health consequences of malnutrition, but also because of the multi-generational impact hunger has on a family’s ability to increase their economic stability. 

Hungry children are more likely to repeat a grade, experience developmental delays, or develop behavioral problems that get in the way of their education. This may lead to them dropping out of school which can significantly limit their life potential earnings, and ultimately impact their ability to provide for their families. 

With support from organizations like Extra Table, Central Mississippi Planning and Development, and companies like KLLM Transport, Sysco Jackson, Two Dog Farms, and Salad Days, Good Sam is able to connect families in need to food programs or food assistance that provides locally grown farm-fresh produce. Their latest program, “Hub for the Hungry,” was developed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to address food access issues from school and restaurant closures. 

 “From the moment things began to shut down because of the pandemic, these businesses stepped up to help Good Samaritan and Extra Table salvage, store and distribute fresh food products. This was food that was earmarked for schools and restaurants, but those places were now closed. The Hub was able to save the food and make sure it was given out to charities and churches helping struggling families throughout the state,” said Good Sam’s Executive Director, Kathy Clem, in an interview.

Through Hub for the Hungry, food assistance programs, and their regularly operating food pantry, Good Sam has been able to help hundreds of Jackson families stretch their budget and put food on the table. 

Good Sam is also a great place to volunteer your time to increasing community health–whether it’s helping collect donated items or helping out at an event. They frequently host 5K events, like their annual Kick up the Dust trail run, and other outdoor community fundraisers that provide a great opportunity for residents to get some fresh air and stay active.

We’re proud to spotlight the Good Samaritan Center as a powerful example of how impactful community-focused organizations can be in creating healthier outcomes for our state. Click here to learn more about Good Sam. Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates on their work! 

Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.

Spotlighting the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians 

Spotlighting the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians 

Our community partner, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI), is doing great things to improve our state’s health. Their work seeks to improve each part of their community, from health and wellness to education and job opportunities. Read on to learn more!

MBCI’s service area is wide. It includes communities spread across the Choctaw Indian Reservation, a sprawling collective containing more than 35,000 acres of land distributed across ten different counties in Mississippi. With over 11,000 members in its tribe, MBCI represents the largest community of Choctaw Indians in the state

American Indians (AI)—and by extension Choctaw Indians—have historically been underrepresented in Census and health data. In 2012, the US Census Bureau published a press release stating it undercounted American Indians living on reservations by 4.9%. 

To gather more accurate data on American Indian and Alaska Native communities, the Census developed the American Community Survey (ACS). According to findings from the ACS, 1,931,362 people identified as American Indian in 2015, representing less than 2% of the total US population. Low representation in health studies, and health statistics, can negatively impact a community’s health.

 In this 2017 study, the CDC found that compared with other racial or ethnic groups, American Indians have a “lower life expectancy, lower quality of life, and are disproportionately affected by many chronic conditions.” 

Researchers also found that American Indians were two times more likely than white Americans to be diabetic while also being less likely to have access to a personal health care provider. The study suggested that the “small sample size” in previous behavioral studies made it difficult to determine the right course of action for improving community health for American Indians. 

Our work with community health partners and organizations across the state have shown that improving people’s connection to the health resources they need, i.e. improving social determinants of health, is vital to improving community health.  

MBCI does that by serving as a nexus for community members to access health resources–like the ones provided by Choctaw Health Center. Based in Choctaw, Mississippi, Choctaw Health Center is one of only a few hospitals designed to meet the needs of the Choctaw community, and provides a range of services from behavioral health to preventative care and inpatient services. 

In 2020, Choctaw Health Center helped administer 100 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Choctaw frontline health workers. It has continued to serve as a vital community health resource for administering additional treatment and vaccination to tribe members during the pandemic. 

MBCI also acts as a resource for job opportunities and community engagement. This past year, they’ve hosted holiday food drives, began constructing a new Boys and Girls Club in Pearl River, and donated money through their Economic Development branch to help community members start their own businesses. They’re very active on Facebook, updating their feed with the latest job or scholarship opportunity, as well as fun community events like golf scramble or their annual Christmas decorating contest. 

We’re proud to spotlight our partner MCBI as an example of how impactful community-focused organizations can be in creating healthier outcomes for our state. Click here to learn more about the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Be sure to follow them on Facebook for updates on their work! 

Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.