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First DeSoto County Hunger Summit A Success

By ROBERT LEE LONG | DTT | Community Editor May 22, 2017
[Pictured Above: Anthony Reese and Laresia “Reesie” Avery with the Fish N’ Loaves organization was one of many participants which joined together in the effort to fight hunger at the first-ever Hunger Summit at the Landers Center.]

The recent 2017 DeSoto County Hunger Summit, sponsored by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, highlighted the fact that nutritious food is not often as readily available to some individuals as it is others.

However, eating nutritiously doesn’t have to break the bank.

“It’s much cheaper to put something in the crockpot to have a healthy meal for three days instead of eating out with fast food,” said Lottie Minor, wife of Oak Hill Baptist Church pastor Michael O. Minor, who has made national news with his efforts to help his congregation eat more healthily.

Reginald Boyce, who lives in the Lewisburg community of eastern DeSoto County near Olive Branch, stresses the importance of nutrition with members of his 4-H group.

“It (summit) was a whole lot of good information, especially if you are trying to help so many young people begin learning healthy eating habits,” Boyce said.

A total of 135 participants attended the first-ever Hunger Summit, according to Anna Dickerson, executive director of Volunteer Northwest Mississippi and Director of Community Education for the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.

“It was a huge success and also a great opportunity for DeSoto County to see what’s happening with regard to hunger,” Dickerson said. “Our participants were able to network and engage each other. My whole goal is to get people to think outside the box.”

One of the presenting sponsors who “thought outside the box” was Austin Avery, a computer engineer by trade, who has pioneered an aquaponics greenhouse model which allows for the growth of food in a compact space.

There are plans for the solar-powered aquaponics units in Frasier and rural Marshall County with tentative plans for an aquaponics unit in the West End neighborhood of Hernando.

“I think it went over pretty well,” said Avery, adding the event was a success in more ways than one.

“The takeaway is that it’s more than just a one-day summit,” Avery said, adding the web portal, developed during the summit, is now live.

Restaurants who wish to donate unused portions of food on a same-day basis can receive substantial tax benefits and contribute to hunger-solving solutions, according to Avery.

Avery is the Executive Director of the Fish N’ Loaves organization, a community outreach program to supply the needs of the hungry in the Mid-South. He has also established a farm in Marshall County, whose chief aim is to fight hunger.

Mississippi currently ranks No. 1 in lack of access to affordable, nutritious food.

Through the portal web site, hungernomics.com, restaurants can sign up to provide food to area food banks or to senior meal programs.

Avery said at least two area restaurants have provided verbal commitments to become part of the food provider network.

“We expect this to catch on,” Avery said. “Hunger is something that never goes away.”

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.
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