Mississippi Food Network (MFN) distributes donated food and grocery products to 1.8 million people per year through 415 member agencies across Mississippi. MFN not only attempts to relieve poverty-related hunger, but also provides nutrition education and supports food justice advocacy. Through their efforts, MFN distributes more than 1.5 million pounds of food and feeds more than 150,000 hungry people each month.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Marilyn Blackledge, Director of External Affairs at Mississippi Food Network.
Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?
Marilyn Blackledge (MB): MFN is a food bank with a mission to relieve poverty-related hunger in our service area by distributing donated and purchased food and grocery products through a network of member churches and nonprofit organizations. In addition to the staple food items we provide, we also have a fresh produce initiative to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the clients; a food choice they don’t often have access to or cannot afford. In addition to the purchased produce program, we have helped start 10 community gardens at some of our member agencies to benefit their clients with fresh produce. We also have four child feeding programs that we are very proud to sponsor – Backpack Program, Afterschool Snack Program, Kids Cafe® Program and Summer Feeding Program. In 2014, MFN distributed 20 million pounds of food.
FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?
MB: We are very proud of our Child Feeding Programs. This program consists of 14 BackPack sites serving 686 children with food for weekends, 14 afterschool snack sites serving 775 children, two Kids Cafe® sites serving 100 children dinner each evening, and 20 summer feeding sites serving more than 585 children and 23,000 meals in 2014.
FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?
MB: Our goal is to increase the amount of food distributed to member agencies and their clients, to expand child feeding programs, to expand Kids Cafe® sites, and the Backpack program, and expand the Summer Food Service Program. We would also like to develop a mobile school pantry program and a senior box program; two areas with high food insecurity within our state.
FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?
MB: Help programs in your communities, as well as Mississippi Food Network, to try to relieve poverty-related hunger.
FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?
MB: Individual donors are a very important part of our organization. The funds raised help provide our programs and services to people in Mississippi who often do not know where their next meal is coming from. We also encourage individuals to volunteer with Mississippi Food Network or with feeding programs in their own communities. Much of the work done, especially in the communities is done with volunteers only.
Download the 2014 Good Food Org Guide HERE.
Submit your suggestions for the 2015 guide HERE.