<strong>Addressing Food Insecurity in the Nation’s ‘Hungriest State’</strong>

Addressing Food Insecurity in the Nation’s ‘Hungriest State’

On April 4, our team, along with one of our Battling Obesity workgroups attended the Mississippi Food Network Conference to learn more about local efforts to eliminate one of our state’s most pressing issues: food insecurity. 

At the county level, Mississippi has the highest rate of food insecurity in the nation and has been considered as the most food insecure state in the country by Feeding America for nearly a decade.

1 in 4 Mississippians deal with food insecurity, and it is a disparity that has been shown to put people at higher risk for obesity and chronic disease. And, although it may seem like a one-problem-one-solution issue, it actually requires a more holistic approach. 

Food insecurity is caused by a number of factors, or social determinants of health, such as income, transportation access, and local food availability. It’s also caused by food deserts–which, unfortunately, are very common in Mississippi. 

Food deserts are communities that have limited access to healthy, affordable foods. When identifying whether or not a community is a food desert, distance plays a key role. Residents must live between 1 and 10 miles from their nearest supermarket in order to have adequate access to food. But, in areas like the Mississippi Delta, where nearly 20% of the state’s population resides, residents have access to just one food market per 190.5 square miles. There is also store inventory to consider; as one participant of our community listening sessions noted, “most stores do not have enough variety of healthy food.” 

When people aren’t able to access fresh, healthy food–either because of distance or lack of availability–they may turn to eating at fast food places or restaurants as an alternative. This is how food insecurity leads to poor nutrition and adverse health outcomes like obesity. 

Our plan is to reduce food insecurity by 10% in the next five years by increasing food access and eliminating food deserts across the state. We’re proud to work with organizations like the Mississippi Food Network to strengthen our efforts and raise awareness around the importance of ending food insecurity. 

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 bettering community health by sending us your success story! Visit https://uprootms.org/contact to get started.



From Pre-K to college, education is an important factor in good health. Teachers, students, parents, and other members of the educational community can have an important impact on the health of Mississippi’s students. If you are part of the educational community, you can use UPRoot to promote health consciousness inside the classroom.  Teachers can develop lessons that focus on some of the issues that contribute to good health, including the social determinants of health.  Students can plan events and initiatives to develop a culture of health on their campuses.  Regardless of the age of your students, health literacy should be a component of education, as education is a critical determinant of health status.  You can learn more about the health issues affecting our state and how the educational community is part of the solution.

Focus on

Check out the educational attainment and culture of health action plans, and the forces of change assessment to give you a good starting point.

Get Involved

If you are in the K-12 community, make sure your public-school district has an active school health council.  If you are in the collegiate community, you can work to make your campus healthier by advocating for increased access to healthy food options and exercise in addition to organizing efforts to raise awareness of the social determinants of health.



Businesses have a tremendous impact on the health of their employees and the individuals and communities they serve.  As community leaders, business owners can take a role in shaping health through the examples they set in their workplace culture.  Additionally, businesses can leverage the influence they wield in their communities to push for initiatives the promote health. Businesses thrive when they are staffed by a workforce that is happy, healthy, and productive.

Focus on

The Create a Culture of Health action plan focuses in part on worksite-wellness initiatives, which can be a driver of healthier habits for employees of a business of any size. Read how this Mississippi company makes workplace wellness a top priority, with awesome results!

Get Involved

Business leaders can use the resources provided as part of the Create a Culture of Health plan to develop a healthier workplace.

Create Worksite Wellness Policies

Sample Wellness Policies from Mississippi Department of Health

Feel free to adapt these policies for use in your workplace.

MSDH Breastfeeding Policy

MSDH Healthy Catering Policy

MSDH Tobacco Free Policy


Employer Solutions to Support Nursing Moms