The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Mississippi leaders opted out of a newly permanent federal program that provides summer food benefits to eligible families.
Oleta Fitzgerald, OFitzgerald@childrensdefense.org, CDF-Southern Regional Office Executive Director
Jackson, MS—On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that nearly 21 million children in the U.S. and its territories expect to receive food benefits later this year through a newly permanent federal program provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office was disappointed to learn that Mississippi is among 15 states whose leaders have rejected this much needed assistance. Other states include: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Oleta Fitzgerald, Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office based in Jackson, Mississippi, released a statement in response to the Associated Press’ reporting:
“Every day, Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office works to make sure young people across the South can thrive. To do that, we must make sure all young people in have basic necessities, including food to eat. Unfortunately, that basic need will go unfulfilled for many children in in 15 states – including Mississippi, where our office is based. From Corinth to Biloxi, tens of thousands of children in our state routinely go hungry. The most recent data provided by Feeding America shows that, in 2021, more than 130,000 children, or roughly 19 percent of all residents under the age of 18, were food insecure in the state of Mississippi.
“This is inexcusable.
“But what makes it worse is that our state leaders have been provided opportunities to help these children achieve so much more. If they had accepted the benefits provided by the USDA’s Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program, every family with children eligible for free or reduced-price lunch could receive $40 per month per child during the summer. Similar child tax credit programs have been proven to lift youth and their families out of poverty. Why are our leaders not doing everything in their power to make sure Mississippi children avoid such a fate?
“Every child deserves to grow up with dignity, hope, and joy. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who ignited the Poor People’s Campaign, once said, ‘Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation.’ We call on Mississippi leaders to reverse their decision or, at the very least, accept the summer funds offered by USDA when they are offered again next year. Our young people must be given every opportunity available to have a healthy and happy childhood. Let’s make sure our state leaders do all they can to provide them exactly that.”
About Children’s Defense Fund
Since 1973, Children’s Defense Fund has envisioned a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive. The only national, multi-issue advocacy organization working at the intersection of child well-being and racial justice, CDF advances the well-being of America’s most diverse generation, the 74 million children and youth under the age of 18 and 30 million young adults under the age of 25. CDF’s grassroots movements in marginalized communities build power for child-centered public policy, informed by racial equity and the lived experience of children and youth. Its renowned CDF Freedom Schools® program is conducted in nearly 100 cities across 30 states and territories. Learn more at www.childrensdefense.org.