(Miss Hattiesburg Mia Hall is preparing to compete at the Miss Mississippi pageant -- taking place June 21-24 in Vicksburg. She shares her experiences in this statement provided to WDAM7.)
As a junior high school student, I always wondered why students would sneak food out of the cafeteria. Cheerleaders were smuggling milk cartons, classmates were stealing fruit and football players were hiding leftover tater tots in their pants pockets. During a visit with my uncle, an elementary school principal, I gained clarity on the problem now known as food insecurity. He told me a story about a student who confided in him that he didn't know when he would eat again after leaving school on Friday afternoon. Of course, my uncle did all he could. He spent his own money at snack machines to make sure the boy would have food during the weekend. This experience inspired me to help others in need of a good meal.
14.5 million (19.7 percent) children in The United States under the age of 18 live in poverty. Mississippi leads the twelve states that exhibit statistically significant higher household food insecurity rates than the U.S. national average. I have chosen to be an advocate for hungry children. My life's mission is called "Hidden Hunger." Over the last three years I have netted 2000 pounds of food by organizing local food drives, raised over $2000 to buy food, connected with multiple social agencies and philanthropies across the state, served as a spokesperson for over 1000 school children who are victims of food insecurity, and packed more backpacks with Nutri-Grain bars, Pop Tarts and Easy Mac and Cheese than I can count!
On the immediate horizon, I am tapping into the regional resources of Mayors Mentoring Mayors (3M). This organization focuses on health in the Deep South states. I initiated this project when I spoke to their local affiliate, The Hattiesburg Mayoral Health Council, on June 7.