Free produce distributed in Jones County to combat poor health ratings

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - UnitedHealthCare and the Alcorn State University Extension Program gave away locally grown and sourced farm fresh food to Jones County residents to help combat the state's poor health ratings.

Currently, Mississippi is ranked 50th in the nation for overall health.

For six years, the UnitedHealthCare Community plan provides free bags of produce in food deserts - areas without fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas - throughout the state.

"UnitedHealthCare has a mission, and that mission is to help our members live healthy lives," said Danielle Polk, community outreach specialist for UnitedHealthCare. "We do that by Farm to Fork."

The Farm to Fork Program addresses this issue and provides a good start for healthier eating among people who are at risk of obesity, heart disease and certain cancers. Polk said it's an opportunity to improve the health of Community Plan members enrolled in the CHIP and MississippiCAN programs by offering fresh produce they may not otherwise be able to afford.

"It is a good feeling simply because there are a lot of persons who can't afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables," Polk said. "So they're feeling like they can't eat healthy because they can't afford it. To be able to give our members these vegetables is a good thing because we're helping them."

Polk said volunteers gave away 93 bags of vegetables in Laurel on Thursday.

More than 20 percent of Mississippians live in households without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. according to Feeding America.

The program will also be in Hattiesburg Thursday, June 8, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Hattiesburg Train Depot located at 308 Newman St. Hattiesburg, 39401.