#1: You can make a difference here. Mississippians face more barriers to health and have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases than any other state. When you serve here, you have the opportunity to make a serious impact.
#2: If you are already in Mississippi, stay here. Serving in your home state or community deepens the impact of your service. FoodCorps ‘13 almuna Mariel Parman chose to serve in her home state because she “saw the different ways people and entities, from non-profits to the government, dealt with poverty, especially in regards to food access. My heart was still with my fellow Mississippians, and I knew we could do better than the poor health rankings our state receives. I was excited to help empower that community to be able to live a healthier life.”
#3: Southern hospitality. It’s no myth! There are few other places where strangers will strike up a friendly conversation in line at the grocery store. We may be biased, but we think Southerners are some of the nicest folks around. When serving in Mississippi, be prepared to be taken in under somebody’s wing, offered a warm meal, and treated like family.
#4: People know the land. It’s hard to find a Mississippian who doesn’t have memories of shelling peas as a kid. Many Mississippians have lived close to the land for generations, growing and eating organic food before the term “organic food” even existed. So when you have a question about gardening or cooking, just ask a neighbor, teacher, custodian, or lunch lady. You’re bound to find an answer because the knowledge exists in the community.
#5: Explore a rich culture with vibrant traditions. You’ll never be bored. Mississippi is the birthplace of American music, a major arena in the Civil Rights Movement, and the home of many of our nation’s most prolific voices and creative minds – Richard Wright, William Faulkner, BB King, Jim Henson, and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few. From the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, there is a whole lot to explore, learn from, and appreciate. Did we mention football?
#6: Our alumni go on to do great things. Take Lauren Cioffi ’12, for example. Following her service year in Jackson, MS, she co-created the documentary subSIPPI, which explores some of the diverse and colorful pockets of subcultures throughout the state. Lauren credits FoodCorps for pushing her to build trust with new people, to become more self-reliant, and to begin to empower people with the tools to make their own changes.
#7: Enjoy the warm weather. Mississippi’s temperate climate and long growing season means there are endless opportunities for outdoor garden education. Our local service member alumnus and sixth-generation farmer Melvin takes pride in growing two successive tomato plantings a year (in April and September) at his farm in Hattiesburg, MS. Fruit trees and berries like persimmon, paw paw, pomegranate, fig, blueberries, muscadines, and strawberries also thrive. And while the rest of the country is up to their knees in snow drifts, we’re harvesting crisp collard greens, bright carrots, and big round turnips.
#8: Keep Mississippi’s food traditions alive. Mississippians have some incredible traditions of growing and preparing food. Platefuls of steaming greens, Delta hot tamales, slow cooked barbeque pork, fried okra, baked sweet potatoes–many of these traditional Southern foods have roots in west African cuisine and the African diaspora. By understanding the legacies of our foods, we can keep the connection to our important food traditions alive.
#9: Work with inspiring changemakers. Many of our site supervisors, like Dorothy Grady Scarborough of MEGA, and Linda Fondren of Shape Up Mississippi, are known statewide and even nationally for pioneering community-wide farm to school and healthy-living movements. Working alongside these leaders, FoodCorps service members pave the way for more just and sustainable food systems that grow a healthier generation of kids and communities.
#10: The Mississippi Delta. There is no place like the Delta. While it is one of the most impoverished regions in the country, it is also the birthplace of the blues, one of the largest and most fertile contiguous agricultural areas in the United States, and is home to a legacy of civil rights activism. Serving in the Delta allows you to delve into its complex history and explore a unique, vibrant side of Southern culture while helping communities overcome barriers to health and food access.
Need some extra inspiration?