Initiative educates residents about local food systems Posted: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 10:06 am By JESSICAԛBAYS The Press Register Health and wealth go hand in hand‐‐which is the major reason why the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative is educating the community to cultivate strong networks that support locally grown food at its harvest celebration that was held Thursday, October 13 at the Cutrer Mansion. According to Judy Belue, Project Coordinator of the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative, the initiative is a coalition of members of different organizations who support community based/locally grown food systems. Funded by WhyHunger the initiative first started in February 2010 with more than 100 members and the project is continuing to quickly grow and gain national and international attention. “There is an increasing demand for locally grown food and we want to share our strengths and empower each other in part of a national effort in the Mississippi Delta to propose these food systems,” said Belue. “What makes this initiative very important and critical are the potential health and economic benefits to the community based on bringing food systems to rural Mississippi.” According to the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 68% of Mississippi residents are overweight and obese with many suffering from illnesses such as diabetes due to lack of exercise and poor diet. The medical costs for treating obesity and diabetes among Delta residents totaled $323 million in 2009, and for the state of Mississippi as a whole these costs were a staggering $1.7 billion. Over 250,000 residents—nearly half of all Delta residents—earn so little that they cannot eat nutritious and safe food year‐round and few of the foods eaten in the Delta are produced by Delta farms even though the Delta is a strong agricultural region. Which makes it all that more important to support local farm and food businesses to help create new jobs and foster healthy lifestyles based on fresh local foods and adequate exercise to reduce health care costs in the Delta. At the harvest celebration, Deborah Moore, Executive Chair of the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative explained the benefits of the locally grown food in that they’re much healthier and it helps to generate a sustainable economy. The food served at the celebration was all locally grown.
“It encourages individuals and makes them aware of what’s locally grown in the Delta,” said Moore about the initiative. “It also connects growers with farmers, marketers, consumers, agri‐ educators, and funders, because all of these individuals want to promote what is taught in this network which are opportunities that will take place with all of the different groups here. “ Some of the projects include partnerships with the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in providing health food classes and the Delta Health Alliance to help families and churches and other food systems build community gardens. “Food and Health go hand and hand in our area and we can do better at eating better being healthier so in creating health food systems, we create healthier people,” said Ryan Betz Delta Health Alliance Project Manager and Executive Coordinator and member of the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative. For more information on ways to get involved visit www.deltafreshfoods.org