University Outreach Program Partners for Special Deliveries

UM CREW, Happy Foods Project provide fresh produce for Quitman County shut-ins

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Community First Research Center for Wellbeing and Creative Achievement and the Happy Foods Project launched the North Delta FoodRx program, an effort to provide produce to homebound clients across Quitman County, at the beginning of June.

The pilot food prescription program delivers weekly boxes containing 10-15 pounds of produce to 20 clients, including Jimmy Long, who has diabetes and must use a wheelchair, which makes shopping for groceries a challenge.

Since the program’s inception, Natalie Minton, research associate at the center, known as UM CREW, has received numerous phone calls from patients expressing their gratitude for their deliveries.

Betty Long, of Marks, accepts a box of produce delivered by the FoodRX Extension Program, a partnership between the university’s Community First Research Center for Wellbeing and Creative Achievement and the Happy Foods Project. The pilot program serves 20 families in Quitman County, with plans to expand the service over the next two years. Submitted photo

“This program has come at a very difficult time for us,” said Long’s wife, Betty. “I don’t know how we could do this without y’all.”

Joyce Ann Robinzine, of Marks, said the program has been a blessing for her family.

“I heard about the food box program through a handout composed by Natalie Minton,” Robinzine said. “The boxes are very beneficial because it is extremely nutritious and provides a healthier lifestyle.”

The Happy Foods Project, run by Robbie Pollard in Marks, includes farmers who grow food in different parts of north Mississippi but work together to provide their communities with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We have eight farmers that are involved,” said Pollard, whose Start 2 Finish Farms serves as the anchor farm and coordinates the group’s activities, including its value-added products under the brand Harvest of the Delta. “I have provided okra, eggplant, collards, white and red onion, yellow squash, cabbage and zucchini squash, red and green tomatoes.”

UM CREW approached Pollard about collaborating on the project in fall 2022. The Ole Miss center created the program with him to evaluate the logistics of a food prescription home delivery system.

Together, they hope to use this evaluation data to inform an expansion of the program from 20 clients to 50 in 2024, with a goal of 100 clients in 2025.

The center’s co-directors Ann Cafer, also director of the university’s Center for Population Studies and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and Meagan Rosenthal, assistant professor of pharmacy administration, have been working on FoodRx programming and research for some time, Minton said.

“It was their idea, originally, to work with a telehealth nutritionist and create a home delivery food prescription,” she said. “During that conversation, I suggested we work with Robbie because of his history working with food prescription programs, his wonderful team of farmers and his delivery capabilities.”

UM CREW members worked with the farmers to plan for anticipated clients and the food box contents. Minton developed a flyer to recruit clients in May through a diabetes treatment center, nursing home and several apartment complexes in Quitman County.

“We reached the program’s 20-patient capacity within 24 hours of handing out the flyers,” she said. “Since then, I have been taking calls from patients who have questions or comments about the boxes and have been working on the evaluation survey to provide to patients and Robbie’s group and, hopefully, get an accurate picture of how the program is going and shed light on any problems folks might be experiencing.”