Mississippi Communities Share Food and Conversations for Better Health

Kait Sukiennik, co-owner of Greenhouse on Porter, volunteers as Chef of the Week for the East Biloxi Garden Supper.

Kait Sukiennik, co-owner of Greenhouse on Porter, volunteers as Chef of the Week for the East Biloxi Garden Supper.

Feed the Seed is an urban food systems and community revitalization program that connects residents living in food insecure neighborhoods to local growers and chefs to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It began in 2016 as a partnership between Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and Climb Community Development Corporation to build a community garden in Gaston Point, a Gulfport, Mississippi neighborhood where much of the population does not live within walking distance of a reliable food source and fresh produce. Today the community garden is co-managed by Climb’s Conservation Corps and the West Gulfport Civic Club.

In 2017, Feed the Seed began hosting Garden Suppers where participants work together to prepare and share a healthy meal. Produce is purchased from community gardens and local farmers’ markets and then the meal is planned based on what is available and in season. The Garden Suppers use Good and Cheap, How to Eat well on $4 a Day, by Leanne Brown, as a guidebook, and everyone goes home with a copy of the book and $10 vouchers that are redeemable at 3 local farmers’ markets.

Additional funding from the American Heart Association provided for expansion across the three coastal Mississippi counties. The hope is that each host organization gleans ideas and tools to continue sharing knowledge and healthy food around a supper table in their community. The participants have fun trying new-to-them vegetables and recipes and discussing healthy food, homegrown veggies and the importance of supporting local growers.

“The most interesting outcome has been how much participants learn from one another, and how valuable the social aspect of preparing and sharing food together has been to the process,” says facilitator Tracy Wyman. At recent suppers, people have shared how diet change and exercise helped them lower cholesterol, control diabetes and lose weight. 

“One participant recently diagnosed with diabetes, says that she and her husband have already lost weight since participating in the series, and are truly benefitting from learning from other participants,” says Wyman who recounts many similar stories that demonstrate how Feed the Seed is impacting community health by increasing knowledge and consumption of fresh foods. She says, “It’s exciting to see how excited people get about this and all of the good that comes from sharing in that experience together.”

The next series will begin July 11 for four consecutive Thursdays at King’s Kitchen in Bay St. Louis. For more information, call 228-436-4661 or visit Facebook.com/FeedTheSeedChallenge.