In Jackson, Hunger and Thirst for a Community in Crisis

“From the conversations we've had, it seems like things are just very chaotic right now,” shared Miranda Lauzon, program associate at No Kid Hungry. “People are not able to get food and water, and it's like what we saw at the beginning of COVID with grocery stores being cleaned out. Things are mayhem.”

As a result of the conversations, No Kid Hungry has provided two emergency grants to organizations working to provide water and food to communities most impacted by the water crisis. We are granting $5,000 to Working Together Jackson, which has a strong network of faith-based organization partners as well as $5,000 to Extra Table, which has a strong network of food pantry partners. Both organizations have the supplies, infrastructure and volunteers ready to continue deploying critical resources.

The water crisis in Jackson Miss., the state’s capital, has been born from a powerfully damaging mixture of infrastructure neglect, global climate effects and systemic racism happening over several years. For affected residents, however, the crisis makes daily life difficult and unsafe.

Lauzon explained that not only are residents unable to drink the water, they are also losing access to important resources. Many local schools, businesses and agencies that provide essential services have been forced to close due to failing air conditioning systems and the lack of access to clean water.

“A lot of children are relying on schools for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, which is like most of what they're eating in a day,” she shared. “So with, with school closures, that's something we really need to watch closely knowing that many students and families will go without.”

Several schools are setting up grab-n-go meal sites. But distribution is a major problem right now. Many families lack access to reliable transportation and there is a high demand for water and food, so even if they make it to a distribution center, supplies may have run out.

Members of the community and neighbors look up after each other to overcome these challenges.

“The strength is the people, ” shared Valeria Hawkins, senior program manager for No Kid Hungry and a longtime resident of Mississippi. “In spite of our history, when people need each other, we always come together.”

Unfortunately, the situation today in Jackson is not new. Hawkins explained that earlier in the winter the city didn’t have water because the pipes froze. The infrastructure has been neglected for years and the effects of climate change will only exacerbate it. 

Unfortunately, the situation in Jackson is reminiscent of similar stories from other American cities in recent years. In 2014, another mostly Black city, Flint, Mich. experienced a water crisis that gained international attention when its water source was polluted with lead and hidden for months by government officials. 

Since the infamous crisis, other communities of color like Newark, NJ, Benton Harbor, Mich., the Mississippi delta and now Jackson, Miss. have had safety issues with their water quality.

The disproportionate effect of these crises mirrors how families and children of color experience higher rates of hunger. And as we are seeing now in Jackson, a public water crisis can put children at risk of experiencing hunger when schools must close due to unsafe water conditions.  

For this reason, No Kid Hungry continues to work in solidarity with communities of color across the nation, including Jackson, Miss., and remains deeply committed to equity, diversity and inclusion in our policies and actions. Last year, 77% of our grants went to support communities of color.

Learn more about how you can join No Kid Hungry’s mission and work so one day, all kids in Jackson and all over the country have the meals they need to thrive.