The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Please Support Greater Funding for WIC, Seniors & SNAP EBT Use at Farmers' Markets, August 2021

Posted on August 02, 2021 at 02:51 PM

Please contact Members of Congress, Biden administration and other officials of both parties and urge them to support funding increases for WIC Farmers Market, seniors’ farmers market, and use of EBT for SNAP at farmers markets.

These are highly beneficial programs that increase access to fresh, nutritious, affordable produce for many lower income people and provide markets for fruit and vegetable producers. Like most programs these markets saw their activities reduced during the pandemic but with more people getting vaccinated, wearing masks and practicing social distancing they are poised for expansion.

It is particularly effective for you to contact by email or phone the US representatives or senators from your district and state, because they pay attention to their constituents.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP):

–served about 1.2 million WIC participants in FY 2020, 15,109 farmers, 2,461 farmers’ markets and 2,150 roadside stands

–Current appropriation level is $18.548 million, with goals for increases of at least $24 million this year

–FMNP has grown from small levels when it was created in 1992 to participation in 40 states and nine US territories or Indian Tribal Organizations, including seven of the eight Delta states Those eligible for WIC FMNP are women, infants over 4 months, children who are certified to receive WIC program benefits, or who are on a waiting list for WIC certification.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) use at farmers’ markets

SN–AP Participants spent $24.4 million in benefits redeemed at farmers’ markets in 2017, a strong upward trend by 35.2% increase over 2012.

–While the upward trend is a plus, many SNAP recipients do not know that farmers’ markets accept SNAP, so we need to contact Members of Congress, USDA and advocacy organizations like the national Farmers’ Market Coalition to advocate for broader information campaigns about Electronic Benefit Transfer access at farmers’ markets. Total spending by SNAP participants was $70 billion, so farmers’ markets’ use is still relatively small and has great room for growth.

–State government agencies negotiate contracts with payment processors to handle SNAP transactions. Contracts like these can have provisions for non-traditional businesses such as farmers’ markets with no-cost wireless SNAP processing equipment. If you or your organization would like to advocate for improvements in your state’s SNAP contract, contact the Farmers Market Coalition at policy@farmersmarketcoalition.org

Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

–Served over 725,000 people in FY 2020, 14,767 farmers, 2,401 farmers’ markets, 2,316 roadside stands and 71 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs

–Funding level in F”Y 2020 is $19.38 million, with desired increases up to $24 million

–From its beginnings in the late 20th century as championed by the late, great Gus Schumacher and other nutrition and limited resource farmer advocates, today SFMNP operates in 45 states and 10 US territories and Indian Tribal Organizations

–Those eligible for SFMNP are low-income seniors, generally defined as being at least 60 years old and with household incomes not more than 185% of federal poverty income guidelines.

We welcome the promotion of Farmers’ Market Week. However, we need to be careful and accurate in our comments. In a mostly constructive special feature to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture wrote that “Farmers’ markets, long thought of as a niche affectation of suburban parking lots or roadside stands, truly came into their own over the past year.”

Actually, farmers’ markets have been gradually expanding for approximately the past 25 years, along with an improvement in public perceptions of these markets as constructive sources of nutrition, markers for farmers, and a positive social impact due to interactions in a public space.

Delta Caucus Executive Director Lee Powell served with the late Gus Schumacher and other farmers’ markets advocates at USDA during the 1990s, when we placed great emphasis on the WIC, seniors and SNAP EBT use at farmers’ markets. While there is still a lot of room for growth, we have come a long way since the 1990s in refuting the view that farmers’ markets are just a niche for a few farmers and customers.

WIC FMNP and other farmers’ market programs were founded in that era with bipartisan support.

We also did not find that all farmers’ markets “thrived” during the pandemic because they were outdoors. Our partners reported many markets experiencing lesser amounts of contact that were common among many activities during the height of the pandemic.

Nonetheless, an outdoor activity would likely not suffer as much as those that are indoors, so our markets did have a benefit in that sense to a limited degree.

There should be new customers introduced to farmers’ markets every year. A number of universities across the country conducted a survey finding that farmers’ markets had a 3% increase in first-time consumers, so that is another positive development.

We have invited a number of grassroots leaders involved in farmers’ markets, home gardens, farm-to-school and other local food systems initiatives for our Delta Regional Conference on Nov. 18-19, 2021 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The agenda will be sent out when we get closer to the time of the meeting.

BASIC SCHEDULE

OPENING SESSION: Thursday evening, Nov. 18 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Arkansas Capitol Rotunda.

FRIDAY, NOV. 19 SESSION: Friday morning and lunch, Nov. 19, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library

REGISTRATION FEES

You register by paying the $100 registration fees.

The easiest and fastest way to register and pay your $100 registration fees is to go on the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

GROUP HOTEL

The group hotel is the Holiday Inn Presidential in Little Rock, Arkansas.

To get the low group rate of $99 for the night of Nov. 18, please call the hotel at 501-375-2100 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group.

Thanks–Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347 or by emai at leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

Please RSVP for First Large-Scale Delta Conference Since Pandemic Hit, on Nov. 18-19, 2021 in Little Rock

Posted on June 30, 2021 at 12:33 PM

The first large-scale, in-person Delta conference since the pandemic hit is set for Nov. 18-19, 2021 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Space is limited so please RSVP and register by paying the registration fees as soon as possible.

The fastest and easiest way to register is to go to the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link that says “Donate,” and pay the $100 registration fees.

If you can get a group of three or four people to register together we will give a group discount down to $60 each.

The opening session is at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda, Thursday evening, Nov. 18, 2021 from 5 p.m. to about 6:50 p.m.

The Friday session is at the Clinton Library Great Hall on Friday morning and lunch, Nov. 19, 2021 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

An accurate head count is essential for planning purposes and we need to avoid logjams caused by having almost everyone register and RSVP at the last minute.

Speakers: We will be inviting grassroots leaders from the 8-state Delta Region, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Members of Congress, Biden administration officials and other concerned citizens to advocate for community and economic development in the region. We have started work on the agenda and will keep you posted as specifics are finalized.

Key issues will be job creation and retention at good wages, transportation, broadband access for underserved areas, housing and other infrastructure investments to generate jobs and repair our deteriorating infrastructure, health care for underserved populations as we recover from the pandemic, support for SNAP, school meals, WIC and other nutrition programs, Delta heritage tourism, diversity, education and workforce development, and related Delta regional subjects.

Diversity at the DRA: We support the Delta Regional Authority as an institution. We are working on the current issue of a lack of diversity at the senior state as well as federal levels, because 10 of the 11 senior state officials appointed by the governors are white and all six Presidential appointees as Federal Co-Chairman and Alternate Federal Co-Chairman in the DRA’s history have been white males. We need diversity in this agency representing a region with a large African American population, a relatively small but growing Hispanic population and other minorities.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson did respond very quickly with the appointment of a well-qualified African American woman, Ateca Foreman, to DRA Alternate for Arkansas. We have contacted the Biden administration and are continuing to have dialogues with the other seven governors. We believe we are slowly but surely making some progress and hope to have made much more progress well before the Nov. 18-19 conference and can report on that improvement at that time. If progress has not been made by then we will respond accordingly.

Please contact the governor’s office from your state and/or the Biden administration White House Office of Presidential Personnel and ask them to appoint African Americans, women and otherwise consider diversity in making appointments to the DRA.

REGISTRATION

You register by paying the $100 registration fees, if you have not already done so.

If you can get a group of three or four or more people to register together, we will give a group discount down to $60 each.

The fastest and easiest way to pay the registration fees is to go to the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our address in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

GROUP HOTEL

If you need a hotel, we have a group discount at the Holiday Inn Presidential near the Clinton Library. To get the discount at $99, please call the hotel at (501) 375-2100 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group.

We have a limited number of rooms for the main night of Nov. 18.

The cut-off date to get the group rate is Nov. 1, although with the limited number the rooms may get filled up well before then so please call in your reservation as soon as you can.

Most people check out of the hotel on the morning of Nov. 19, go to the morning and lunch session that day and then head back home that afternoon or early evening.

If anyone would like to stay on Nov. 19 we have a very small number of rooms that night.

The hotel has a restaurant and is a short drive to the Arkansas Capitol and Clinton Library.

Thanks very much. Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347

Arkansas Municipal League magazine article on May 13 Delta Zoom Conference, in June, 2021 Issue

Posted on June 10, 2021 at 11:26 AM

We are sending along this article on the May 13, 2021 Delta Zoom Conference, which appeared in the June, 2021 issue of City & Town, the official monthly magazine of the Arkansas Municipal League.

Impacts of pandemic focus of Delta Caucus conference

By Andrew Morgan, League staff

Local elected officials, nonprofits and other community leaders from across the eight-state Delta region gathered virtually on May 13 for the annual spring regional conference of the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus. The caucus has traditionally held two large meetings each year, one in Little Rock and one in Washington, D.C., but like most organizations it has moved its events online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The health and economic impacts of the pandemic on historically underserved Delta communities dominated the conference agenda, with several Arkansas representatives participating in the meeting.

Based in West Memphis, the East Arkansas Family Health Center is a community-based nonprofit that, over the course of 2020, served more than 17,000 area patients, providing a variety of health care services at its 12 sites, Dr. Susan Ward, the center’s CEO, said. In order to continue to serve the community throughout the pandemic, the center had to first struggle with its own financial stability, and tough decisions had to be made, she said.

“There was a rapid decline in productivity—40 to 50 percent. We were in jeopardy of site closures. We had to close down our dental department, per state mandate.” Amid these operational challenges, the center continues to respond to the pandemic.

“We’ve had to be nimble, quick and pivot on a moment’s notice. Our first patient case was on March 25, 2020, and our first employee case was on April 10, 2020,” Ward said. It left them scrambling to come up with a plan of action that included securing their facilities, acquiring personal protective equipment, launching tele-health options for patients and more. Expanding tele-health has presented some unique challenges for the organization, including ensuring that their IT capabilities are robust and that staff are properly trained. It has also been a challenge for patients, Ward said, many of whom have inadequate internet and mobile phone service and need education about the new form of care delivery if they do have access.

Educational outreach has been a priority of the center throughout the pandemic, Ward said, and that continues as the vaccines have become widely available. It’s become especially important to combat the myths and misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, she said. “Why should I vaccinate?” Ward asked. “Because COVID is still here. It is true that cases have come down, but they plateaued at a high level. There’s still pockets of disease cropping up across the nation, particularly because of the mutant strains from the U.K. and now India that have proven to be in the United States and will prove to be problematic unless we out-vaccinate the virus.”

As of early May, 34 percent of Arkansans had received at least one vaccine dose. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has challenged the state to achieve a 50-percent vaccination rate by August, but convincing the public to take advantage of the now widely-available vaccines remains a challenge, Ward said. To reach that goal in Crittenden County will take nearly 30 percent of the population receiving the vaccine in the next two months, she said.

“We know that we’re going to have to pivot and go to where folks are, perhaps even go to truck stops and gas stations, wherever we can get people to take these vaccines,” Ward said. COVID remains the third leading cause of death in the country behind heart disease and cancer, she said. “I would dare say that if we had a vaccine for heart disease and cancer that many of us would take it.”

The Delta’s local elected officials like Dumas Mayor Flora Simon have been on the front lines the past year, taking steps to educate and protect their communities. While the Desha County city has experienced negative effects of the pandemic, including having one of the very first recorded cases in Arkansas, cases did not skyrocket locally, she told conference participants. She credited the community’s efforts to follow safety best practices and a strong regional response. “I applaud everyone in the area for taking those precautions,” Simon said.

From the beginning of the crisis, the mayors and other community leaders met regularly to coordinate a region-wide response, which included working with local media and online outlets to educate the public with the most up-to-date information, she said. “Lucky enough, I believe it actually worked,” Simon said. “There’s always people that didn’t believe they needed to follow the rules, but overall they did.” Dumas has felt some of the negative economic impacts of the pandemic, both in the business community and the city itself, the mayor said. Some businesses were able to remain open by shifting to drive-thru and curbside service. Some were forced to shut their doors, at least until some of the statewide restrictions were lifted.

About a dozen Dumas businesses were able to take advantage of grants through the Economic Development Commission to help them weather the shutdown period, Simon said. For the city, the only direct economic impact was felt with the closure of the community center, which meant a loss of that funding source, Simon said.

The city has been able to keep all of its staff employed throughout the pandemic, although two employees were reduced to part-time hours. Overall, in Dumas and the Delta area, “We fared well,” Simon said. “We all worked together to do those things we needed to do.”

One of the lower Delta’s larger communities, Greenville, Mississippi, along with the state of Mississippi as a whole, has felt the effects of the pandemic more acutely, Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said. “COVID-19 has swept through our state in ways that have disproportionately affected Greenville and much of the Delta due to the high poverty rate and vulnerable populations we have,” he said.

“Mississippi is the second worst performing state in the nation for vaccine distribution with only 25.5 percent fully vaccinated compared to 35.5 percent in the United States.” Communities in the Delta have done a pretty good job utilizing mobile vaccine distribution and other outreach efforts, but a lack of large chain pharmacies and other broad-scale distribution infrastructure has hampered their efforts, he said. Vaccine hesitancy, particularly among white males in the state, also contributes to the low vaccination rate, Simmons said.

Disasters, whether they are public health emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic or natural disasters like flood events or hurricanes, hit underserved areas like the Delta region harder, Simmons said. He is part of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, a group of 100 mayors from 10 states representing communities adjacent to the river from Minnesota to Louisiana and who are dedicated to measuring the impact of the challenges the region has faced the past several decades and developing policy that meets the scale of those challenges. “

The Mississippi River corridor has sustained $210 billion in actual losses due to disasters since 2005,” Simmons said. “Events that used to occur once every 25 or 30 years are now hitting us every couple of years.” He cited the May 2019 flood along the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers, which resulted in 270 consecutive days of flooding in Greenville and cost over $6 billion in losses locally and $20 billion across the entire basin.

“We’re now losing as much as eight percent of our annual economy to disaster impacts,” Simmons said. “Couple this with a 30-percent poverty rate throughout the Delta and you have an acute situation.” These are the kinds of factors that Washington must take into account as the Biden Administration and Congress debate the size and focus of the infrastructure legislation now being considered. “We have to begin to think about the least of us in this infrastructure package, and we hope the president will do that,” Simmons said.

TS Police Support League Nonprofit Supports Law Enforcement Officers & other Community Needs in Alabama Black Belt

Posted on June 03, 2021 at 03:38 PM

Constructive Activities of Nonprofit TS Police Support League in Greene County, Alabama

June 3, 2021

Editor’s Note: We would like to send along this information about the constructive work of the nonprofit T.S. Police Support League based in Eutaw, Greene County, Alabama in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt.

President Sheila Smith and Treasurer Billy McFarland of the T.S. Police Support League were scheduled as speakers at the May 13, 2021 Delta Zoom Conference, but unfortunately technical difficulties prevented them from being able to participate at that time. President Smith and Treasurer McFarland are longstanding colleagues of the Delta Caucus work in promoting community and economic development in the Greater Delta/Alabama Black Belt region.

T.S. Police Support League’s Mission

The T.S. Police Support League was founded in 2013 to promote and support law enforcement officers and agencies in Greene County, Alabama, with contributions made throughout each year by the League. The nonprofit donates funds directly to law enforcement, buys essential vehicles, supplies and equipment for law enforcement in Greene County.

T.S. Police Support League also supports the families and survivors of law enforecement officers killed in the line of duty. The nonprofit supports the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and all law enforcement in the county.

Among the many accomplishments of the T.S. Police Support League are included:

–Donating millions of dollars over the years to help law enforcement and first responders in Greene County. For example, in 2018 over $1.5 million was given back to the local community. Without these donations law enforcement would have to make major cutbacks in personnel and equipment.

–In 2018, T.S. Police Support League was the largest financial donor to nonprofit charities in Greene County among all of the nonprofit 501c3 organizations in the area.

–Purchased three police cruisers, uniforms and equipment for Eutaw Police Department, as well as new vehicles for the Greene County Sheriff’s office.

–Contributed to the Eutaw Fire Department and was a corporate sponsor of the Alabama State Troopers’ Association.

–Provided funding for former Eutaw police officers’ medical bills and to refurbish the community’s ambulances. Donated food to Greene County residents.

–Sponsored the Criminal Justice Scholarship for Black Belt Students for Judson College.

The League continues to expand its philanthropic mission thanks to the electronic bingo license granted to the nonprofit by Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison, who has spent over 30 years in law enforcement, 24 of those as an Alabama State Trooper.

Greene County, Alabama’s population is approximately 80% African American, 19% white, and about 1% of other ethnic types.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office is 100% African American, the Eutaw, Alabama police department is 80% African American, and the Forkland, Alabama police department is 100% African American. Local law enforcement officers pursue policies of respectful, professional conduct to all people.

League President Sheila Smith is a member of the Eutaw City Council, and also serves on the Quality Control Board of the Greene County Department of Human Resources and the board of the Greene County Health System Foundation. She previously had a lengthy career in fashion retail and cosmetics in New York.

League Treasurer Billy McFarland serves on a variety of boards and associations including the Southern Rail Commission appointed by the Governor of Alabama, the Tuscaloosa Children’s Center, the Pickensville Rosenwald School Community Center Council, and the Finance and Grant Committee of Region III in the Alabama Governor’s Office of Workforce Development.

For more information call at (205) 887-0591 or see greencountylawenforcement@gmail.com

Update from Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans & Acadiana, June 1, 2021

Posted on June 01, 2021 at 02:10 PM

Update on Second Harvest Activities Regarding Hunger and Nutrition in Southern Louisiana

June 1, 2021

Editor’s note: This is an update about Second Harvest hunger and nutrition work in New Orleans and southern Louisiana from Paige Vance, Impact Operations Manager for Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. Ms. Vance was one of the speakers at the May 13, 2021 Delta Zoom Conference. Lee Powell, Delta Caucus Director (boldface in document are from the editor) (202) 360-6347

In a “normal” year, we fight hunger, which is a disaster by itself. According to Feeding America, there are 382,930 food insecure people residing in our 23 parish service area, which stretches from the MS State Line to the TX border.

The Dept of Agriculture reports that 1 in 5 Louisianians are unsure of where they will get their next meal. For children, that number increases to 1 in 3, which is up from 1 in 4. And then 2020 hit.

We are quite accustomed to Disaster Response between hurricanes and floods. 2020, however, was a disaster on steroids. The Pandemic impacted us, like everyone else, quite severely. The New Orleans economy is significantly based on tourism. Thousands upon thousands of our neighbors were suddenly unemployed and in need.

People who had never been concerned by a lack of food were suddenly unsure of where they would get their next meal. In the past, when we were in disaster mode, we were able to rely on partners who could assist from those areas that were unaffected. Suddenly we were alone without that network, because we were all in the same predicament; all of us facing an unrelenting demand for food and unable to assist any other Food Bank. And the long marathon of COVID response was punctuated at times with a Sprint as we responded to Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta, as well as to this winter’s hard freeze.

We know that all storm clouds have silver linings, and for us this was no different. We were able to develop some amazing and unique partnerships, some of which were temporary, and some of which we hope will be permanent. In addition, we have thought of ways to deliver food that we had not done before.

As they always do, the government responded. They sent National Guard troops who were able to act as needed labor. They were also a presence of authority on the scene at mass distributions. USDA began the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and sent food through distributors. They increased The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and added trade mitigation food as well. USDA also increased the SNAP benefits and eased the TEFAP application requirements, allowing for 2 distributions monthly.

The Health Department in LA was tracking the COVID diagnosed patients and contact tracing. As part of their interaction, they asked if the isolated or quarantined household needed food, so they would not go out into the community and potentially spread Coronavirus. Volunteers of America was their point of contact.

After a year, the VOA needed assistance and reached out to us to provide food and transportation of the product to the homes of the COVID exposed. We in turn partnered with Hands On NOLA, who had won a Door Dash Grant of over 5,000 free deliveries. There was a catch: (isn’t there always, though?) DoorDash only delivered within 10 miles of the pick up point, which had to be vetted to ensure there were restaurants and drivers in those areas. We identified a network of out partner agencies and dropped food off at their locations. While we had some partners in rural areas, Door Dash declined several due to a lack of drivers. This clustered partnership was able to deliver 153 boxes to 145 families in a 6 parish area between March 17th and May 11th of this year.

We were also able to partner with local government entities, from City Council members to Parish Presidents to mayors in order to distribute food to the areas they were able to identify as needing extra assistance.

We were able to offer direct assistance to our communities reeling from job loss and worry by setting up our own mass distributions through Parish properties as well as our warehouse. At one point we lost the use of all of these locations as the parishes were preparing for hurricanes and used those venues to stage emergency equipment. Not to be stopped in our mission, we then partnered with a movie theater to utilize their large parking lots early in the day and avoid their late movie starts. These mass distributions had to follow COVID guidelines, so mask on, window up, and trunk popped were the orders of the day to provide contact free services. We were even able to use volunteers to assist those in their cars to apply for TEFAP product. This way we were able to get the CFAP, TEFAP and donated products to those in need in the most efficient method we were able to devise.

To get the food out on a more local level, we utilized our relationships with our partners and sent CFAP trucks directly to those communities. Through these 262 CFAP distributions, we were able to distribute an estimated 1,008,807 boxes with a combined weight of 19,847,807 pounds of food.

Our kitchens in New Orleans and Lafayette, St. Joe’s Diner, went into meal production as another response to the pandemic. Normally, the kitchen prepares meals for after school programs, but school was not in session. 500 meals were sent daily to Senior housing developments to prevent the seniors, who were particularly vulnerable to the virus, from having to grocery shop. These deliveries are ongoing as we are utilizing disaster funding to continue for as long as possible.

Our New Orleans kitchen also fed breakfast and lunch to 124 vulnerable senior Hurricane Laura evacuees housed in 2 hotels on Canal Street. On the weekends and holidays, a partner Soup Kitchen provided meals and Hands On helped provide DoorDash drivers to deliver them. St Joe’s Diner was able to partner with the Calcasieu Department on Aging to deliver Meals on Wheels delivering 1981 meals weekly, which has increased to 2331 currently.

When the hurricanes struck, production for the survivors and evacuees increased. These kitchens combined have delivered over 1 million meals to senior residential facilities, children’s programs, grab and go meal sites, and other locations, including shelters operated by the Red Cross. At the peak or disaster response, over 10,000 meals were being prepared daily.

We became a hub of information for some of our partners. The Fight Is In Us campaign asked if we could spread the word on their campaign to collect plasma from recovering COVID patients to use in treatment for those who were afflicted the worst by the virus. We distributed over 1,000 of their flyers to our agencies and clients. They were able to collect over 650,000 units of plasma and delivered more than 600,000 of them to patients fighting COVID and also led to the discovery of important COVID-19 research insights. We were just a trickle in those numbers, but this partnership lent to what will hopefully prove to be the slowing and eventual stopping of the pandemic. We also disseminated SNAP information and encouraged those unfamiliar with the program to apply and see fi they could get the supplemental assistance offered.

As time passed, and the vaccines were made more readily available, we partnered with Ochsner Health Systems and provide them with our monthly list of distributions through our partners so they can go and assist. We were stopped for a time as Johnson and Johnson is the preferred vaccine so no 2nd shots are needed. But they are back on track. The United Way is sponsoring a vaccination/food give away partnership starting next week where they are distributing 1500 boxes of food and shots for 6 weeks at 4 different sites.

Another group, Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) has reached out as well, and we are planning to move forward with them as well. This food and vaccination partnership is allowing the health care field to go to people in their communities and target those who are the most likely to be concerned about and fearful of the vaccine and reach them where they are to allay their fears and hopefully vaccinate them as we move 1 step closer to herd immunity, and the recovery of our entire community.

We know the economic recovery is a different story. Feeding America is projecting that while the unemployment rate will reduce, poverty and child poverty rates will increase in 2021. It is anticipated that rural areas will be adversely impacted. We are strategizing to reach these communities and populations as well. We have started a Mobile Market in the rural communities around Lafayette where we provide fresh produced, sourced from local black and brown farmers at a rate where they are making a living wage and we can sell it at cost to folks in need cheaper than the supermarket. We are able to accept credit, cash and EBT payments as well.

We are piloting a Rural Accelerator initiative in St Landry Parish. There are several community leaders from cross sectors involved. The thought process is that work Force Development, Farmers Association, Health Care, Housing Authority, and Local Government representatives work together to problem solve the issues facing their community. This is an attempt to eradicate the factors perpetuating poverty. Food alone will not sure that ill.

´╗┐These rural areas are often underserved because they are remote. We are developing a strategy to partner with more nontraditional entities, such as WalMart, Piggly Wiggly, or the local store to see if they would be willing to be a drop off point for clients we are serving directly rather than a partner agency. 2020 and so far 2021 have certainly been hard, but from this adversity, we are learning how needs are changing, and so how we need to develop and grow to continue to serve those who are most in need. And those in need can change in the blink of an eye when there is a natural or biological disaster. Whatever comes next, we will evolve to meet the challenge and serve the need where it exists.