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Hungry Crowding Mississippi Soup Kitchens Despite Reports of National Economic Upswing

By Rhonda Miller | Published 27 Dec 2011 09:52pm | comments
Miranda Crawford and Paul Gattis of Moss Point with their son, Justin.

While some national experts say the economy is starting to recover, it’s hard to convince the crowds of hungry people pouring in to Mississippi soup kitchens.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller has more.

"Would you likesome baked chicken, sir? Baked chicken? Chicken and rice?"

There’s a long line at the serving table at Our Daily Bread, a Pascagoula soup kitchen.  Twenty-four-year-old Miranda Crawford says it’s hard to find steady work.

"I just got finished with Hickory Farms seasonal work and I’m looking for a job right now," Crawford says. "I go to the WIN job center and fill out applications online. And I walk from business to business or I ride from business to business."

Crawford is at the soup kitchen with her boyfriend, Paul Gattis, and their two-year-old son. Gattis says they used to rent a house, but had to give it up when they both lost their jobs.

"I do finish carpentry work and I usually make $100 dollars a day and that’s usually pretty good money," Gattis says. "But this time of year, it’s so dropped off, nobody’s getting anything remodeled."

Our Daily Bread serves about 200 people in the dining hall and delivers about 800 meals a day to the homebound in Jackson County. Director Mary Meldren says she gets calls from new people nearly every day.

"Well, on the news we do hear that the economy is turning around and going up, but we here don’t see it , ma’am," says Meldren. "It hasn’t hit my poor people yet. They haven’t felt a thing of the economy, if in fact it is turning around. What I’ve seen in the last year is nothing but increasing numbers in the hungry mouths that we feed."

Fifty-five-year-old Connie Ralphs worked at the shipyard years ago, but now she’s disabled. She comes to Our Daily Bread nearly every day, but sometimes she can’t even afford to make the trip.

"I only get $36 a month food stamps, and if it weren’t for this place, I couldn’t make ends meet, because by the time I pay my bills, sometimes I don’t even have gas money, " Ralphs says.

Our Daily Bread isn’t the only place feeding increasing numbers of people. Feed My Sheep in Gulfport broke its November record and served 13,000 meals.

Statewide, the Mississippi Food Network distributed more than 17 million meals last year.

According to a recent study by Feeding America, Mississippi has the highest rate of hunger in the nation.


Miranda Crawford and Paul Gattis of Moss Point with their son, Justin.



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