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The Mississippi Food Insecurity Project (MFIP) began in August 2015 to document and examine food access and food insecurity in the state of Mississippi.

The USDA defines food security as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life (USDA-ERS). Food insecurity, then, is understood as a lack of access to enough food to be healthy and active (USDA-ERS). In 2014, 14 percent of Americans were food insecure (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory and Singh, 2015). Of those, 5.6 percent (or 6.9 million households) reported very low food security, which indicates reduced meals and disrupted eating patterns (Coleman-Jensen, et al, 2015).

Rates of food insecurity are highest among households with children (19.2%); households with children headed by single women (35.3%); households headed by Black, non-hispanics (26%); and Hispanics (22.4%) (Coleman-Jensen, et al, 2015). Food insecurity is greatest in the South (15.1%), and in non-metropolitan (rural) areas (15.7%) (Coleman-Jensen, et al, 2015).

What happens when people are food insecure? Research has demonstrated that food insecure populations have higher health care costs, greater likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, increased rates of mortality, higher blood pressure and many other health concerns (Hossfeld, Kelly, Smith Waity, 2015). Indeed food insecure households’ health care costs are almost 50% higher than those households that are considered food secure (Tarasuk et al 2015). Food insecurity is of particular importance to Mississippi, whose food insecurity rate is 22 percent, the highest in the nation, well above the US average of 14 percent (USDA-ERS 2014).

The Mississippi Food Insecurity Project provides current USDA-ERS food insecurity data for all 82 counties in Mississippi, along with related socio-economic variables, food assistance data, local food activities, food store availability, and health data. In addition, MFIP will provide research briefs, policy initiatives, and qualitative and quantitative research reports that document and examine food insecurity from the perspective of service providers and food insecure residents throughout the state.