Mississippi Public Health Institute and Feeding the Gulf Coast Provide Produce and Dry Goods to More than 500 Gulf Coast Families

Media Contacts:
Elaina Jackson, Fahrenheit Creative Group, LLC, elaina@fcgworks.com, (601) 371-8003
Tennille Collins, Mississippi Public Health Institute, tcollins@msphi.org, (601) 398-4406

Organizations work together to provide food to individuals and families affected by COVID-19 pandemic

BILOXI, Miss. – Today the Mississippi Public Health Institute (MSPHI) and Feeding the Gulf Coast (FGC) distributed fresh produce and dry goods to 500 individuals and families on the Mississippi Gulf at First Baptist Church of Biloxi. The organizations worked to increase the number of families they were able to serve and the types of food they supplied in light of the significant economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

“Our service area is experiencing an influx of need from those impacted by COVID-19,” said Dan Emery, newly appointed president and CEO for Feeding the Gulf Coast. “School closures and local job layoffs are leading to an unprecedented need for those who typically may not experience food insecurity. While those that struggle on a daily basis are now in an even more critical situation, compounded by the economic stress the COVID-19 virus has created in our communities.”

The food distribution is part of collaborative multifaceted efforts to support the development of stronger, healthier families across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. MSPHI is specifically working with several partners in Jackson, Hancock, and Harrison Counties, including Coastal Family Health Center and the Mississippi State University Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, to promote health and wellness among African American mothers, babies, and families, including a public education campaign called SHEA (Sharing Health Education & Awareness).

“Ensuring Gulf Coast families have access to fresh and healthy foods is a critical part of improving overall health in these communities, and that’s why we have partnered closely with Feeding the Gulf Coast on this effort,” said Tennille Collins, program manager at MSPHI. “Through two events, we have provided produce and dry goods to nearly one thousand families along the Gulf Coast, but we recognize we still have much more work to do.”

One in five Mississippians struggles with hunger, and Mississippi has had the highest rate of food insecurity in the country for eight consecutive years, according to data from Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some very particular economic disruptions for families of the Gulf Coast, which may increase the level of food insecurity in communities for months to come.

“Feeding the Gulf Coast is no stranger to working through times of crisis to assist the most vulnerable in our community. Last year, the food bank served the community during the partial government shutdown,” said Emery. “During times like these we see an increased need among people who do not typically face hunger. The threat of coronavirus adds even more pressure to the already strained finances of those we serve and so many more. The food bank remains a critical lifeline to anyone who is struggling with hunger, especially during an unforeseen crisis.”

MSPHI and its partners are also working with community organizations to increase the rate of breastfeeding among mothers in Gulf Coast communities, especially among African American mothers. “Breastmilk has all of the nutrients babies need for healthy growth and development,” said Collins. “However, we know many mothers have anxiety and stress that make it more challenging to breastfeed. We hope we can alleviate some of that anxiety and stress through this event, enabling mothers to concentrate on the health and well-being of their families and themselves.”

For more information on the SHEA campaign and tips on breastfeeding, tobacco cessation, and active living, visit www.sheahealth.org or contact Tennille Collins at tcollins@msphi.org. For more information on Feeding the Gulf Coast, including opportunities to volunteer, visit www.feedingthegulfcoast.org.


About the Mississippi Public Health Institute
MSPHI is a nonprofit entity established in 2011 to protect and improve the health and well-being of Mississippians, serving as a partner and convener to promote health, improve outcomes and encourage innovations in health systems. We cultivate partnerships aimed at program innovation, health resources, education, applied research, and policy development.

About Feeding the Gulf Coast
Feeding the Gulf Coast, formerly Bay Area Food Bank, serves a 24-county area spanning south Alabama, south Mississippi and the Panhandle of Florida. Feeding the Gulf Coast is committed to ending hunger in the communities we serve, where at least one in six people struggle with chronic hunger. Feeding the Gulf Coast operates multiple hunger-relief and nutrition programs, including Summer Meals, Afterschool Meal, Backpack, Disaster Relief, Mobile Pantry and Produce Drop Distributions, Nutrition Education, and SNAP Outreach to help address food insecurity.

In 2018, the food bank distributed over 22 million meals to over 400 partner agencies—food pantries, soup kitchens, and other non-profit hunger relief organizations. Since its founding, Feeding the Gulf Coast has distributed more than 260 million pounds of food.

Feeding the Gulf Coast is a United Way member agency and a member of Feeding America.
Our vision is a hunger-free Central Gulf Coast.