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UM Law School Symposium Seeks Answers On How to Help the Mississippi Delta

By Sandra Knispel | Published 12 Nov 2012 11:40pm | comments
Despite its wealth in cash crops like cotton, rice and soy, the poor in the Mississippi Delta continue to suffer food depravation.

While the Mississippi Delta is home to some of the largest and most profitable farms in Mississippi, it’s also home to the poorest people in the Union. MPB’s Sandra Knispel reports on a symposium at the University of Mississippi’s Law School that sought to find answers on how to help small-scale farmers in the Delta and end the chronic food shortage for the poor.

“People don’t have enough money to purchase food," said Rita Bender. There are not adequate food outlets providing healthy nourishing food. There is true food depravation for many, many people in the Delta.”

Rita Bender is a Civil Rights activists and a lawyer. She’s also the widow of slain civil rights worker Michael Schwerner who was murdered in Mississippi in 1964 by the KKK. Bender says helping small Delta farmers starts with an inventory.

“An inventory of public lands in the state might reveal that there is property to be used that is lying fallow now and could be turned to production by local communities or local farmers.”

Julian Miller, co-founder of the Delta Fresh Foods Network and a UM law student, has been working on a local farms-to-schools program for small Delta farms to sell directly to school cafeterias in the area.

“We’re trying to recruit small local businesses. We have to expand to those markets for schools, for cafeterias, for hospitals, for nursing homes, for restaurants in order to expand the market, so we can make the prices for consumers reduced enough it can be purchased by consumers; at the same time while trying to develop locally, community by community.”

But Darnell Weeden, a professor at the Texas Southern School of Law, says the locals need to take responsibility again for growing their own vegetables, the way they did when he was a boy, growing up in Tunica county.

“If you can grow your own food or support and supplement your food by having your own personal garden in your home – fine. And if it happens to be a cooperative experience where you can share a community garden – fine. I encourage people to do what they can to support themselves in terms of producing food.”

No question, the problem of food shortage and poor nutrition will continue to haunt the Delta for years to come.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.

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Despite its wealth in cash crops like cotton, rice and soy, the poor in the Mississippi Delta continue to suffer food depravation.


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