Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative - 2019 Final Report

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MISSISSIPPI FOOD JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE

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FINAL REPORT Dr. Cassandra Hawkins, Evaluation Consultant


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

MISSISSIPIPI FOOD JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Final Evaluation 2019

The Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative (MSFJC) formed after the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) recognized the need for collaborative efforts to promote the transformation of local food systems in Mississippi. The three-year project focused on improving health outcomes for vulnerable children and their families. NCAT worked with specific partners from different geographic locations in Mississippi and facilitated collaboration to ensure that the MSFJC successfully improved access to healthy food in Mississippi and enhanced communication between each partner and their respective communities. The evaluation consultant implemented a methodology that involved a desk review of existing MSFJC documents, planned visits to engage with partners and The MSFJC focused on collectively addressing their organizations, the creation and dissemination of surveys, and the access to healthy food in Mississippi, collection of supplemental qualitative data. Additionally, the Theory of enhancing communication between Change and Evaluation Measurement Framework helped shaped the partners, and coordinating shared efforts. trajectory of the evaluation. The final evaluation of the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative serves as a source of evidence regarding collaborative efforts to transform local Mississippi food systems.

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The final evaluation sought to answer the following questions: 1. Did the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative produce intended and unintended outcomes? 2. What changes can be attributed to the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative, and to what extent? 3. What were the specific features of the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative that made a significant difference to the local Mississippi food systems? Subsequently, the findings indicated that intended and unintended outcomes surfaced because of the existence of the MSFJC. For example, an unexpected outcome was the re-establishment of the Mississippi Food Policy Council, which recruited new executive leadership from partners The final evaluation of the Mississippi Food involved in the Justice Collaborative serves as a source of MSFJC. evidence regarding collaborative efforts to The findings of transform local Mississippi food systems. the evaluation revealed that the MSFJC succeeded in impacting local food systems. Implemented strategies contributed to the capacity-building of partners. For example, MSFJC partners told that their participation helped to strengthen collaborative efforts among staff members within their respective organizations. For the continued success of the MSFJC, the following should occur: • Enhance communication strategy. • Devise evaluation resources for the MSFJC partners • Identify self-sustaining strategies.

DR. CASSANDRA HAWKINS

Evaluation Consultant

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INTRODUCTION

MISSISSIPPI FOOD JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE INTRODUCTION

HISTORICAL CONTEXT Mississippians experience numerous health-related issues, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity-related cancer. For numerous Mississippians, obesity and related illnesses, such as diabetes, plague their lives. The obesity rate among adults in Mississippi is the second-highest in the nation and the third highest in the nation among children ages 10 and 17. Many Mississippians deal with diabetes, and a significant percentage of the population have a diagnosis of hypertension. These challenges escalate among the underserved, low-income, and minority communities. Mississippi children and their families deal with numerous challenges,including obesityrelated illnessess and poor food choices.

Inadequate nutrition and poor food choices remain factors that contribute to the escalating number of Mississippians battling obesity and obesity-related conditions. Improving access to fresh, healthy food, especially in low-income and low-resource Mississippi communities, contributes to combating obesity and obesity-related illnesses. Furthermore, the number of hungry Mississippians reduces, and there is a significant decrease in the prevalence of obesity-related diseases among children and adults. Numerous organizations throughout Mississippi work individually and vigorously to address food access and food security. The Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative (MSFJC)

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evolved from the necessity of concerted and collaborative efforts to transform food systems in Mississippi. Recognizing the need to tackle the overwhelming health issues for Mississippians, MSFJC attempted to create a The National Center for Appropriate Technology and the Missisippi Food Justice Collaborative worked closely to tackle access to food and health disparities while transforming food systems in Mississippi.

unified presence in changing Mississippi food systems. The MSFJC evolved after diligent planning to transform the local food systems in Mississippi while collaborating with other Mississippi organizations. Therefore, the MSFJC sought to address the health disparities and access to food, especially among underserved communities in Mississippi.

The commitment of the MSFJC to the transformation of food systems and the catalyzation of system change involved focusing specifically on shared ownership, consistent time commitment, and investment by the partners. Partners within the MSFJC are a unique and diverse group of organizations dedicated to working diligently in their respective communities in geographically distinct Mississippi locations to address food security and food access. These partners serve urban and rural communities, where cultures and languages vary. All of the partners are from communities that battle extreme levels of poverty and health disparities. Each of the partner organizations within the MSFJC strongly believes that collaboration is necessary for impactful and sustainable food systems change

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and embraces their uniqueness. Subsequently, the partner's participation shared their resources in terms of their service delivery methods, their development of local partnerships, their maneuvering beyond local partners, and their trajectory towards sustainability. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) recognized the necessity to understand the organizational culture of each partner involved in the MSFJC. During the first year, NCAT conducted site visits, held in-person meetings, and developed a communication plan and system. Through these efforts, the MSFJC partners established trust and communication. NCAT’s role involved the facilitation and coordination of contact, the collection of valuable data, and the dissemination of pertinent information among the partners. NCAT's involvement proved instrumental in creating communication structures and building trust among the partners. Additionally, NCAT provided useful strategies and assumptions for addressing food security and food justice issues, as well as transforming the food systems in Mississippi.

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MSFJC IMPACT THEORY The capability to address health and wealth disparities in Mississippi remains impacted by the imbalance of power. Since the numerous stigmas around these disparities exist in Mississippi, the MSFJC, a collaborative food security project, provides a promise and an opportunity to contribute to the reduction of these stigmas despite the imbalance of power. Since the MSFJC focuses on collectively addressing access to healthy food, a close examination of its mission, strategies, and outcomes illustrates that it aligns closely with the collective impact theory and collaborative social change model. Through the implementation of these theoretical models, the MSFJC encourages continuous communication between the various The Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative provides partners, which promotes shared decision- making. Also, MSFJC the opportunity to reduce the numerous stigmas partners used their collaborative identity to promote sustainable food surrounding disparities in Mississippi, including the systems change. MSFJC partners shared their shared responsibility lack of access to healthy foods. and developed a shared reliance on each other. Through their involvement in the MSFJC, partners gained a better understanding of cultural norms for the various communities involved. Based on the MSFJC Impact Theory, the program activities correctly sequence with the theory and show the proper linkage.

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MSFJC GOALS AND OBJECTIVES The purpose of the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative (MSFJC) is to improve the health outcomes for vulnerable Mississippi children and their families. By increasing access to healthy food, integrating efforts to transform local food systems in The purpose of the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative (MSFJC) is to improve the health outcomes for vulnerable Mississippi children and their families

Mississippi, achieving significant strategic impact, and catalyzing systemic change through collaboration on multiple levels, the MSFJC fulfills this purpose. Additionally, the health of low-income, minority, and Native Mississippi children and adults improves through the work of the MSFJC partners. Access to local, healthy foods expands. Schools and institutions increase the amount of healthy foods in schools and institutions. Mississippi children and adults gain awareness about the health benefits of proper nutrition. Technical assistance and increased understanding of how to produce and market local, healthy foods are several benefits that local producers gain because of the existence of the MSFJC.

MSFJC THEORY OF CHANGE

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At the start of the project, the key MSFJC partners were the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Asian Americans for Change, Food Corps, Mileston Cooperative Association, Mississippi Farm to School Network, National Center of Appropriate Technology, and The Piney Woods School. Every MSFJC partner is distinctively different. The conceptualization of service delivery methods varies. Within each of the partners' communities, the pathway to sustainability and barriers are different. Even the local community partnerships differ from partner to partner. Each of the MSFJC partners possesses a different level of capability to be engaged in food systems change or lead a collaborative project to facilitate systemic change. In Year 3 of the project, the MSFJC partners were the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Boat People SOS, Steps Coalition,

Missisippi FoodCorps, Mileston Cooperative Association, Mississippi Farm to School Network, National Center for Appropriate Technology, The Piney Woods School, and the Mississippi Food Policy Council.

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EVALUATIONI

MISSISSIPPI FOOD JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE EVALUATION EVALUATION METHODOLOGY The final evaluation of the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative intends to examine how the partners built their capacity and strengthened their organizational and community-level projects. By understanding the functionality of the MSFJC, this evaluation explores how the MSFJC addressed accessibility to food and promoted food justice in Mississippi. Additionally, the evaluation attempts to illustrate how the MSFJC partners are collaborating to achieve long-term sustainability and a more significant collective impact. Furthermore, the evaluation assesses the capacity-building effect of the MSFJC, the accomplishment of its goals and its objectives, and the presence of the desired outcomes.

The third-year evaluation involved the collection and analysis of data from the project coordinator, key MSFJC staff, MSFJC partners, community members, and other stakeholders.

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In 2018, the MSFJC and NCAT hired a new evaluation consultant, Dr. Cassandra Hawkins, to conduct the final evaluation. The third-year evaluation started in December 2018 and concluded in September 2019. This third and final evaluation aligns with the third year of the existence of the MSFJC and functions to create a unique glimpse of the MSFJC's trajectory towards long term collaboration. The evaluation consultant developed a mixedmethods approach to answer the evaluation questions. The evaluation consultant designed the evaluation around the understanding that effective food systems change that takes an immense amount of commitment, time, and trust. Understanding the MSFJC collective impact and its success in leveraging resources for participating partners remained the focus of this evaluation. The developed methodology sought to examine how the MSFJC built capacity and strengthened the partners' capability to address food justice and access within their communities. The final 12


evaluation concentrated on examining the unintended and intended outcomes. The final evaluation included a desk review of existing MSFJC documents, the creation and dissemination of surveys, visits to partner organizations, and the collection of supplemental qualitative data to align with existing data. The analysis of MSFJC documents, surveys, site visits, and interviews helped the evaluation consultant identify the systemic change as a result of the existence of the MSFJC and the extent of the change for the partners and their respective communities. The evaluation consultant engaged with the MSFJC partners to understand the specific features of the MSFJC that contributed to food systems change in Mississippi.

The evaluation consultant carried out the final evaluation based on the following: • Theory of Change • Evaluation Measurement Framework • Mixed Methods Evaluation • Partner Engagement

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EVALUATION FRAMEWORK The development of the Evaluation Measurement Framework (EMF) helps to capture essential data necessary to evaluate the MSFJC. In 2016, the MSFJC partners developed the EMF, which identified three main components to guide evaluation activities. Additionally, the MSFJC partners specified indicators for each of the elements. The first component of the EMF focused on the identification of capacity building for staff, farmers, community members, school staff, and partners through technical training, apprenticeships, and fields. Next, the EMF suggested an examination of how the capacitybuilding affects access to local produce in communities. Lastly, the EMF identified the third component, which involves the assessment of how capacity building opportunities build collaborative networks among partners and

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how the partners utilize these networks to accomplish their project goals.


The logic model and evaluation measurement framework guided the creation of the evaluation plan and design. The logic model, created during the first year by MSFJC partners, consists of a variety of different components. Indicators are the time of the logic model’s creation, and the logic model was used to inform the data collection for the final evaluation.

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THE MSFJC LOGIC MODEL

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OUTCOMES

OUTCOMES

MSFJC Final Evaluation

This section of the third and final evaluation highlights the main findings of the evaluation. The findings are organized by the questions. The analysis of the main findings involved using quantitative and qualitative methods, and an exploration of this analysis is included. After the analysis, a discussion of factors and possible linkages between outputs, outcomes, and impacts follow. The results of a survey created by the evaluation consultant and the project coordinator provided insight into the capacity-building aspect of the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative (MSFJC). The MSFJC partners indicated that their involvement changed the internal capacity of their respective organizations. For some partners, the implementation of better evaluation methods provided valuable. The evaluation consultant conducted a site visit that resulted in a two-day, technical assistance training with the partner, Boat People SOS. The evaluation consultant and MSFJC partners worked on improving their evaluation methods. The first day involved the organization of data collected after concluding a series of healthy eating sessions. The second day focused on data visualization and interpretation. Other MSFJC partners identified that their ability to engaged with community members and other stakeholders about systems change and food justice improved because of their participation.

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QUESTION 1: DID THE MISSISSIPPI FOOD JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE PRODUCE INTENDED AND UNINTENDED OUTCOMES? Throughout the three years, the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative (MSFJC) employed numerous strategies to accomplish the primary program goals. MSFJC partners worked collaboratively and diligently to improve the health outcomes for Mississippi children and their families. Partners developed better access to local healthy foods. They participated in several technical trainings, which contributed to an increase in the production of local healthy food and the producers' capability to market foods. Mississippi children and adults participated in educational activities produced by the MSFJC. These activities focused on providing resources and other materials for children and their families to understand the health benefits of proper nutrition better. By working collaboratively, MSFJC partners increased the abundance of healthy foods in schools and institutions. MSFJC partners shared that their participation adequately prepared them to help members of their communities identify food systems challenges and issues. An emergence of systems leaders in local Mississippi food systems occurred. About 72 percent MSFJC partners worked collaboratively and diligently to of the MSFJC partners agreed that their involvement helped improve the health outcomes for Mississippi children and to create new leaders in their respective communities. their families. Partners developed better access to local healthy foods.

The MSFJC effectively organized partners to sustain food systems changed. For example, the exposure of children to healthy foods increased significantly through the collaboration between partners, such as the Mississippi Farm to School Network. These children experienced first-hand the benefit of having and maintaining a garden at their school. The majority of the MSFJC partners (92%) felt that their involvement in the MSFJC enhanced their preparedness in addressing food systems change. Since the MSFJC involved a variety of different 20


partners throughout Mississippi, a decrease in the inequities among specific communities and their food systems occurred. The MSFJC shifted the power dynamic of the food systems work by creating an inclusive and diverse environment. This shift of power provided a unique platform for more accountable leadership among Mississippi food systems leaders. The MSFJC connected minority-lead organizations with technical assistance and more resources to transform food systems in Mississippi. Furthermore, about 92% of the MSFJC partners attributed the change of their understanding of food systems to their involvement in the MSFJC. About 64 percent of the MSFJC partners shared that their participation provided opportunities for developing relationships, which further demonstrates that the MSFJC is essential to the creation of sustainable systemic change in local Mississippi food systems through relationship and partnership development. The MSFJC provided numerous opportunities for partners to travel to different partners across Mississippi. Producing this single exposure enhanced the relationship development, expansion of partners' networks, increase in sharing resources, and the strengthening of collaborative relationships.

The MSFJC promoted the awareness of problems and challenges that partners face within their local food systems and provided partners the platform to share and exchange their experiences, as well as best practices for transforming food systems. These learning exchanges often occurred through site visits, conference calls, or in-person meetings. Usually, the MSFJC created coordination and harmonization among partners, who had never worked with or had knowledge of other partners. Also, the development of the MSFJC created another unintended outcome, the Mississippi Food Systems Fellowship. This fellowship focuses on developing food systems leaders that contribute to maintaining a healthy, sustainable, and equitable food system. The fellowship was co-created with the MSFJC, including the MS Food Policy Council, as part of the larger strategic sustainable food systems vision, which includes the Food Systems Leadership Institute. The MSFJC partners remain committed to capacity building and strategic collaboration through their involvement in the development of the fellowship and participating on the Steering Committee.

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Before several of the partners' involvement in the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative, their efforts to address access to healthy foods and food insecurity in Mississippi remained polarized. The previous existence of polarization among the partners, while performing food systems work, suggests the lack of communication, dialogue, and collaboration before the creation of the MSFJC. Subsequently, MSFJC partners indicated the significance of the reduction in the polarization of their food systems work and the impact that occurred within their local Mississippi food systems. The rapid growth in awareness of resources, focused and effective communication, and continuous dissemination of information reduced the polarization of partners. The polarization of the partners restricted their capability to create sustainable food systems change. Yet, through the many introductions to new partners, resources, etc. the polarization strategically reduced among MSFJC partners. Also, the structural design of the MSFJC program activities changed the polarizing nature of partners' contributions to transforming Mississippi food systems. The MSFJC created a collaborative effort that resulted in systemic food systems change and improved access to healthy foods for Mississippi children and their families. The transformation of polarized partners to more collaborative partners suggests that the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative played a central role in creating the platform for partners to work cohesively with other partners and stakeholders. Initially, the

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geographical location of many MSFJC partners impacted their capacity to transform the prevalence of food security and food justice within local Mississippi food systems. Yet, regardless of a partner's geographical location, their involvement in food systems change enhanced because of their participation in the MSFJC. Partners became connected with each other and knowledgeable of their efforts, distributed resources among themselves, and with the MSFJC as a whole, disseminated useful knowledge for efficient and effective change.


QUESTION 2 WHAT CHANGES CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE MISSISSIPPI FOOD JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE? After the examination of MSFJC documents, site visits, and partners' feedback, the existence of the MSFJC impacted local food systems in Mississippi. The creation of the MSFJC transformed the community involvement, created new relationships, enhanced social networks of the MSFJC partners, and created sustainable food systems change. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT MSFJC partners changed their community involvement in food systems work. Helping community members address unjust systems ensures the transformation of local Mississippi food systems. Consequently, 79 percent of MSFJC partners attributed an improvement in their ability to communicate with community members about unjust food systems and the necessity to transform MS food systems to their involvement. All of the partners shared that they are better prepared to assist community members with the identification of challenges and issues in their local food system. The MSFJC changed the partners' ability to inspire new leaders in their community. About 71 percent of the partners identified that their involvement inspired new leaders in their community. These new leaders focus on either Mississippi food systems or food justice, which will lead to sustainable food systems change. The transformation of partners helped prepared them to share the best practices for enhancing access to healthy food, especially among Mississippi children, their families, and minorities. The partners gained the ability to promote food justice among their communities through their involvement in the MSFJC. Ultimately, the MSFJC increased collaboration between MS Food Systems leaders and community members.

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NEW RELATIONSHIPS Because of the expansion of the MSFJC partners' networks, about 88 percent of the partners shared that their involvement resulted in new collaborative relationships. Through the development of the new connections, the partners explained how their commitment to the MSJFC changed their relationships with other systems leaders in Mississippi. For one partner, the connection with Mississippi farmers deepened and allowed the exposure to new knowledge surrounding local Mississippi food systems. Another partner explained that their involvement in the MSFJC provides new relationships that contributed to an increase in their capacity as system leaders. The new relationships developed improved the awareness of transformation taking place throughout the state of Mississippi. Additionally, one MSFJC partner attributed the increased strength of their network to the development of relationships. These collaborative relationships proved key to addressing the complexity of systemic change within local MS food systems. The development of new relationships among MSFJC partners proves beneficial to transforming Mississippi food systems. Because of the new relationships, partners shared knowledge, learned from each other, and shared resources. The MSFJC presented the right conditions for partners to develop new collaborative relationships. The thoughtful and significant investment of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) helped to build the right capacity necessary for MSFJC partners to develop relationships. The result of the relationship development encourages the promotion of food justice and awareness of local Mississippi food systems and related issues and challenges. ENHANCED PREPAREDNESS According to 93 percent of the partners, the MSFJC improved their preparedness in addressing food systems change in Mississippi. This fact further demonstrates the confidence gained through the participation in MSFJC promotes sustainable food systems change in Mississippi. Therefore, the continuation of the MSFJC can ensure long-term substantial food systems change.

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ENHANCED NETWORKS The Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative (MSFJC) transformed the social networks of the involved partners. When partners joined the MSFJC, they identified their current networks and the essential stakeholders to their progress in creating systemic change within their own local Mississippi food systems. The data revealed that the partners' networks remained limited to stakeholders within a relatively small geographical proximity to their food systems work. However, after the MSFJC project, all of the partners indicated that their networks evolved after their participation. Through their involvement, partners provided data that demonstrated the transformation of their systems, which now reached beyond their spatial areas and included statewide stakeholders and other MSFJC partners. Using the Kumu platform, the evaluation consultant employed stakeholder mapping to visualize the data about the enhanced networks within the MSFJC. The stakeholder map illustrates how the MSFJC changed the partners' networks and contributed to the alignment of shared interests to transform Mississippi food systems. The classification of each stakeholder involved color-coding based on the identified categories. Through this classification method, the stakeholder map provided valuable data regarding the expansion of the networks, as well as allowing the identification of opportunities for growth. The stakeholder map on the following pages highlights how transformative the collaborative efforts were for the MSFJC partners.

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QUESTION 3 WHAT WERE THE SPECIFIC FEATURES OF THE MISSISSIPPI FOOD JUSTICE COLLABORATIVE THAT MADE A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE TO THE LOCAL MISSISSIPPI FOOD SYSTEMS? COMMUNICATION Each of the partners possesses a communication style, which may impact their communication with other partners. The MSFJC provided an approach to communication with partners that transformed communication difficulties and promoted the best possible outcomes and partner satisfaction. Also, with the numerous in-person meetings, the MSFJC helped partners remain accountable to themselves and other partners. Despite the challenges with phone correspondence and email correspondence, the MSFJC found ways to connect with partners, including site visits, to meet the needs of the partners and their local food systems. Not only did the MSFJC foster communication among its partners, but the MSFJC also created trust among the partners, encouraged collaboration, provided a platform to disseminate information, projected significant impact, and catalyzed systemic change. Also, MSFJC partners communicated the barriers to healthy food access within communities, which they serve. Partners became aware of how socioeconomic factors that impact food choices and diet quality. RESOURCES Partners in the MSFJC received necessary improved access to resources, including funding and technical assistance. The MSFJC provided an avenue to share resources among partners, which proved essential to transforming food systems and improving access to healthy foods. Additionally, the MSFJC provided partners with the increased capacity through the availability of resources to significantly enhance the pounds of produce grown, sold, and distributed both within their communities and outside of their communities. The MSFJC improved the efficiency of its partners to change local Mississippi systems effectively. The small-scale partners collaborated with larger-scale partners and shared available resources, which ultimately developed access to healthy foods, strengthened relationships, enhanced capacity of partners, and changed Mississippi food systems. For example, MSFJC partners increased collaboration to serve several Mississippi schools. Through this effort, the farm to school network expanded and provided garden grants and technical assistance to continue providing healthy foods for Mississippi children.

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DIVERSITY TThe Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative involves a diverse group of individuals and organizations from numerous geographical locations around Mississippi. Since the partners are so different, the MSFJC created a unique platform to conceptualize food justice and its prevalence in Mississippi. Additionally, the diverse nature of the partners presented relevant data about historical barriers that impact their capabilities to create systemic changed within their geographical locations, as well as challenges to food justice in Mississippi. The diverseness of the MSFJC partners allowed the creation of very strategic pathways to implement change in Mississippi food systems. VARIETY Another essential feature of the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative that proved crucial to its success is the variety of the tools and services provided to change local Mississippi food systems.Various strategies included working with farm-to-school, providing children with nutritional education and healthier schools, transforming access to healthier foods among children, especially lowincome minority children. Other strategies included farmto-community markets, donations and u-picks, and farm-topantry for more robust food relief. For partners, who were producers, the MSFJC exposed these producers to more resources that they normally wouldn't consider, as well as increasing the amount of produce being grown and sold to Mississippi communities. The partners of MSFJC created and maintain school gardens to ensure improved access to healthy food for their children and their families. Another strategy involved building farmers' capacity and improving skills through the implementation of technical assistance trainings. Another approach involved building farmers' capacity and improving skills through the application of these trainings, hiring ambassadors to rebuild a local Mississippi food system, training farmers apprentices, providing translation for English as a Second Language in Mississippi Food Systems. CONSISTENCY The Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative (MSFJC) provided consistency for its partners to be a success in addressing local food systems. Through this consistency, the MSFJC established itself as a hub for information, data, technical training, and resources to partners. Even though partners changed during the three

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years, the MSFJC maintained its structure and consistently worked to improve access to healthy foods, especially among Mississippi children and their families. The partners, who were producers, increase their production of foods for local Mississippi food systems. Also, the capacity building component of the MSFJC provided consistency for the emergence of new leaders in the Mississippi food justice work that ultimately lead to the creation of the Mississippi Food Systems Fellowship. This fellowship continues the legacy of the MSFJC by working to build a more healthy, sustainable, and equitable food system through leadership development of its fellows. COLLABORATION Throughout the MSFJC project, collaboration remained key to success. Partners worked collaboratively with each other, the project director, the evaluation consultant, the NCAT staff, other food systems leaders, and a variety of critical stakeholders. Throughout the project, collaboration contributed to the various outcomes of the MSFJC, the successful execution of the communication strategy, the achievement of goals and objectives, and the development of value statements.

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CONCLUSION

CONCLUSION

MSFJC Final Evaluation

The MSFJC provided value for its partners, stakeholders, and local Mississippi systems and contributed to the capacity building of its partners. Additionally, the MSFJC helped the establishment of essential collaborations. The feedback from partners supported the existence of the MSFJC and its role in the facilitation of transforming improved access to healthy foods for Mississippi children and their families. The MSFJC contribution to local Mississippi food systems suggests possible sustainable change beyond the three years. The variation of the different strategies implemented throughout the existence of the MSFJC supported its overall success. For instance, through the numerous site visits, the partner-to-partner interactions helped to fuel food systems change in Mississippi. The findings of this evaluation suggest that the creation of the MSFJC resulted in positive contributions to the Mississippi local systems. The partners’ stakeholder networks enhanced. Since the MSFJC provided a communication strategy, this enhancement of the networks promoted better communication among partners. During the first two years of the MSFJC, the activities and outcomes focused on the strategic sustainability of the project and creating capacity-building opportunities. Subsequently, the technical assistance that the MSFJC supported its partners with changed the efforts of the food systems to work throughout local Mississippi food systems. Through their participation in the MSFJC, partners received the necessary support to not only retain their work in local MS food systems, but they gained more resources to sustain their work further. The MSFJC survived changes in partnerships because of its consistency in promoting systemic food systems change. The way that the MSFJC orchestrated collaboration among the existing and new partners illustrated how the various strategies developed the evolution of food systems change to improve access to healthy foods within local Mississippi food systems. Ultimately, the MSFJC positively affected its partners, and the quality of the engagement of the partners became evident in their production of pounds of produce and their implementation of the techniques provided in the technical assistance training.

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Leadership and technical skills of the MSFJC partners, as well as the project coordinator and NCAT staff, contributed to the success of collaborative efforts to improve access to healthy foods.


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RECOMMENDATIONS

MSFJC Final Evaluation

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Even though the communication strategy illustrates its appropriateness for the MSFJC, the communication strategy could be enhanced to ensure more participation from all partners to gain 100 percent participation. Strategic adjustments to the communication strategy are necessary to engage all MSFJC partners. The communication strategy should not only align with the needs of partners, but it must encourage accountability from partners to remain in contact with the MSFJC. Also, the adjusted communication must consider strategic ways to receive timely responses from MSFJC partners. In implementing future MSFJC activities, devising evaluation resources for partners to effectively monitor progress and challenges as they transform their local food systems could help build capacity Identify strategies for the MSFJC to become a self-sustaining entity that continues to make systemic change in Mississippi.