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At a time when money is tight everywhere, things are particularly tough in Mississippi. The budget problems and high rates of unemployment that challenge other states are compounded in Mississippi by alarmingly high rates of obesity. One of the main causes of this dangerous health issue is that Mississippi’s poorest people have very little access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other local farm products, despite recent growth in farmers markets across the state. Without access to healthy foods, this vulnerable population is left with unhealthy food alternatives that contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Barriers at the local, state and national level have either limited or entirely blocked the use of federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP formerly known as food stamps) benefits at Mississippi farmers markets. In addition, federal funding for the Women Infants and Children (WIC) farmers market voucher programs in Mississippi has remained stagnant in recent years. Thus, the poorest Mississippians are unable to use their government benefits to purchase healthy food, and are forced to resort to less healthy alternatives. This is a serious problem requiring immediate action by our elected officials and government agencies.

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