ALUMNUS Spring 2022 - Mississippi State University

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“Being at risk of or thinking you could lose the family farm is very difficult. There are legitimate reasons why people are struggling in agriculture,” Buys said. “Through this program, we’re helping those who work in agriculture understand how to help people in distress, why people are in distress and how to destigmatize being in distress.” The team has also partnered with the Center for Continuing Education to provide youth mental health first aid training as a continuing education course for Mississippi teachers. The course increases understanding of common mental health challenges for 12 to 18 year olds, reviews typical adolescent development and teaches a five-step plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. So far, more than 500 teachers in the state have been trained.


MSU’s AIM for CHangE—an Extension-based program that stands for advancing, inspiring, motivating for community health—improves quality of life in communities where the obesity rate exceeds 40% by providing better access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Backed by a $5-million grant, the program has funded nearly 60 projects across eight counties in North Mississippi while also investing considerably with the Mississippi Food Network, the state’s food bank. Karli Gama, who earned a master’s in agribusiness management in 2021, took the lead on several programs for the Mississippi Food Network as part


of her graduate degree requirements. In April 2020, she created an emergency food resource database detailing more than 300 food pantries and six transportation sites across the state. She also created an interactive map to help people find resources in their area. Additionally, she developed a best practices management guide to help food pantry managers with inventory, ordering, pick-up, bagging and distribution. AIM for CHangE also galvanized a coalition in Lexington to create the Lexington Food Pantry, which distributes boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to upwards of 800 families, feeding about 3,200 people each month.


Health inequity across rural America and the Magnolia State is caused by a multitude of factors including cost, health literacy and access. But through the programs outlined above and others administered through Mississippi State, Bulldog faculty, staff and students are working to systematically breakdown these barriers. Beyond that, the university is producing alumni who go on to serve in the health care industry, filling the gaps in medical coverage for rural residents in Mississippi and beyond. Revisit the winter 2021 issue of Alumnus at for more on how Bulldog graduates are helping communities overcome rural health disparities. n


Bully’s Closet and Pantry: Block by Block Meal Program: AIM for CHangE:


Mississippi Thrive! Vroom: Rural Medical and Science Scholars:


Telemedicine for Youth Mental Health: Mental Health First Aid: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255 ALUMNUS.MSSTATE.EDU