Committed to building sustainable, equitable,
community-driven food systems to strengthen
the local food economy and promote healthy
lifestyles in the Mississippi Delta.

The Good Food Revolution in the Delta

Like a beautiful patchwork quilt, food plots lush with vegetables dot the rural Mississippi Delta as local growers get back to basics with growing food for family, friends and neighbors. Appreciation for the superior taste, lower cost, easier access, and the real satisfaction that comes from providing food for your family and your community are all fueling the "Good Food Revolution" in the Delta and around the country. Local church gardens, raised beds for kids to learn at school, and a renewed interest in home gardening are all part of this Good Food Revolution taking place in Marks, Lambert and other rural Delta communities suffering from lack of fresh healthy foods in their diets. And it's not just a feel-good movement, there is the promise of significant economic and health benefits for the region—creating jobs, reducing diet-related diseases and their healthcare costs, and bringing in resources for economic and infrastructure development in the area.

In Marks and Lambert, three farmers employ high tunnels to extend their growing season to almost year-round. Their row crop production of vegetables is up, too, as acres that have been fallow for years are being plowed and planted in alternative crops this spring.

If it is "all about the soil", as sustainable agriculture guru Will Allen ( preaches, then the Mississippi Delta is uniquely blessed with fertile soil.

Limited access is a big issue with only one grocery store to serve nearly 10,000 residents in Quitman County. But, things are definitely getting better with fresh local vegetables available on the Wilbourn and Mays farms, on the roadside under the shade of the bald cypress tree on Highway 3, through produce donations by local growers for distribution among area congregations, a growing number of church and community gardens, and at farmers markets in Clarksdale, Cleveland, Batesville and other Delta communities.

To be sure, there are other problems to solve—pesticide drift from crop dusting, building a larger supply chain of locally grown foods and tackling the challenge of developing healthy substitutions for traditional recipes that Southerners will embrace – to name a few. The Delta Fresh Foods Initiative (DFFI) is focusing its efforts on these challenges by developing a network of stakeholders in the region that includes growers, consumers, suppliers, educators, food policy advocates, community-based organizations and funders.

A healthy cooking project with The Higher Education Center in Clarksdale and local Mississippi State Extension Service staff will provide classes for adults, teens and kids in a state of the art Viking kitchen adjacent to the Cutrer Mansion throughout the coming year. A Harvest Celebration dinner for the community will feature produce from local growers and healthy recipes developed in the cooking classes.

As part of a whole generation of "non gardeners" struggle to remember what they wished they had learned better from parents and grandparents about raising their own food, it is reassuring to see local youth embracing the Good Food Revolution. In addition to the project at the community college, high school students at the Vocational Tech school in Marks and youth in local churches and after school programs are all jumping on the bandwagon!

The DFFI network of community members and organizations working to develop a local food system in the Delta is among a group of visionaries investing in building community food systems in Mississippi. Our national partner, WhyHunger supports DFFI in collaboration with local organizations including Delta Health Alliance and Delta State University. DFFI also works closely with other state and regional organizations including the Mississippi Food Policy Council, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, Mississippi Department of Health, Alcorn State University and the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Services.

You can get involved in Mississippi's Good Food Revolution by becoming a part of the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative! Contact us here.