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Mississippi County, Mo. leaders tackle food insecurity in the community

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Mississippi County, Mo. leaders tackle food insecurity in the community


CHARLESTON, Mo. (KFVS) – A growing number of people in southeast Missouri worry about putting food on the table.

That’s according to new numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The department’s annual “Map the Meal Gap” report showed food insecurity in southeast Missouri jumped from 14.5 percent in 2023 to more than 17 percent in 2024.

According to the Southeast Missouri Foodbank, higher food prices are driving that increase. The national average cost of a meal is up nearly $3.50 in the food bank’s coverage area.

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That report also broke down food insecurity by county in the Show Me State, and seven southeast Missouri counties landed in the top 10.

According to the report, Mississippi County ranks 7th in food insecurity and second in child hunger in Missouri.

We talked with local leaders about how they’re tracking the issue as summer break begins.

“It’s important for us to be a village,” said Lester Gillespie, CEO of Fresh Start Self-Improvement Center in Charleston.

Wednesday, May 15 marked the last day of his winter food program where he feeds up to 200 kids five days a week. The Summer Food Program begins on Thursday.

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Gillespie said he’s here to help parents in need.

“It’s not so much we give out a handout. We give it, we give a hand up and I really love the fact that our parents are trying to do the best that they possibly can do under the circumstances,” he said.

Veronica Dunigan is a member of the Fresh Start organization. She said providing children with breakfast and lunch makes a difference.

“A lot of times the parents, they run out of food or either they’re working and they don’t get a chance to come home at all. Some time to feed their children, like during the summer time they’re at work all day,” Dunigan said.

And it fills a real need in this community.

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“The parents feel good that their kids are somewhere and they can release them to the program and that’s what I see this program I’ve done and, and I see this continue to do and I pray that it continues to grow more and more,” she said.

Gillespie hoped talking about food insecurity in his county and across the state brings more awareness.

“I really appreciate the fact that we’re putting a light on this. We’ll bring it to full attention throughout our community and allow other people to get involved in any way they want because it is a problem,” Gillespie said.

According to Gillespie, the program provides food to children up to 18 and offers transportation to his program at the C. F. Bowden Civic Center in Charleston, Mo.

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Mississippi

Mississippi River refuges get $10 million for nature-based solutions to climate change

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Mississippi River refuges get $10 million for nature-based solutions to climate change


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A $10 million investment will fund seven projects aimed at making national wildlife refuge lands along the upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers more resilient to climate change, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced earlier this month.

The projects, which span all five states that border the upper Mississippi, will emphasize nature-based solutions — in other words, working with the river ecosystem instead of trying to control it — to blunt the impacts of some of the river’s major problems, like flooding and drought. There are 11 national wildlife refuges along the two rivers, the largest of which is the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

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The funding comes from the Inflation Reduction Act. Part of it was rolled out last year to support projects on state-owned lands, including in Wisconsin.

The upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers are seeing the consequences of a warmer, wetter world, and the human-engineered infrastructure built decades ago, like the lock-and-dam system and levees, isn’t able to keep up. In particular, an almost unprecedented amount of water flowed through the rivers over the last decade, killing trees, degrading fish habitat and threatening to breach levees meant to constrain them.

These new projects are meant to help land managers think through those climate threats and adapt to what’s happening now, said Tim Miller, who manages the La Crosse District of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

Here’s what to know about what they’ll tackle.

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Floodplain forests are a priority

More than $1 million will be dedicated to the project, “Building Resilience in America’s Big River Forests,” and an additional half-million will go toward restoring bottomland hardwood forest in Missouri.

Bottomland forests, also called floodplain forests, are located along major rivers. As their name indicates, they flood seasonally when the river floods. But along the upper Mississippi, more water flowing through the river and longer-lasting flooding events have inundated these trees more than they can handle, causing hundreds to die.

More: What to know about floodplain forests, a struggling ecosystem on the Mississippi River

More: A new technique could help save the Mississippi River’s floodplain forests: raising the forest floor

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Work is ongoing to save them, but this money will allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the range of that work to all 11 national wildlife refuges along the river in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, Miller said.

Staff will be curtailing invasive plant species that have moved into areas where larger trees have died and planting tree species that are better suited for today’s wetter conditions.

The funds will also help staff labor-intensive projects like these on refuges that have very few employees, Miller said. The national wildlife refuge system has struggled with chronic understaffing in the past decade.

Other projects will make room for the river

Some river engineering structures will get a facelift, or even a total overhaul, to deal with high waters. That includes Guttenberg Ponds in Clayton County, Iowa, where a levee protecting a wetland area from the river’s main channel has been degrading over time, repairs for which have been costly. The project will allow the degradation to happen and turn the area behind it into floodplain forest, Miller said.

“Instead of fighting the river with these levees we’ve had, we’re allowing it to naturally degrade over time,” he said. “It’s kind of a neat way of looking at it.”

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Other engineering changes include replacing or raising the elevation of water control structures, which regulate the flow of the river, so they can hold more water, easing stress on the river, Miller said.

Wisconsin project focused on fish habitat

One of the projects funded is specific to Wisconsin: restoring Sam Gordy’s Slough in Buffalo County. Floods and high flows have brought more sediment into the backwater channel, making the area shallower and less suitable for fish and effectively cutting it off from the river’s main channel.

More: Climate change imperils the upper Mississippi River backwaters. Now nature needs human help.

The project will reconnect the backwater channel to the main channel by dredging, and install a sediment diverter so sediment can’t keep piling up, Miller said.

Work will start on most of the projects this year, he said, with the exception of the Guttenberg Ponds project.

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Madeline Heim is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about environmental issues in the Mississippi River watershed and across Wisconsin. Contact her at (920) 996-7266 or mheim@gannett.com.



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Live Updates: Mississippi State Baseball versus Vanderbilt

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Live Updates: Mississippi State Baseball versus Vanderbilt


Top of the 8th

Bottom of the 7th

Powell flies out to center field, one down.

Long pops out, two down.

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Chance will reach on a throwing error.

Mershon works a walk.

Hujsak walks to load the bases.

Jordan strikes out to end the inning.

MSU trails 4-1.

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Top of the 7th

Gavin Black is the new Bulldog pitcher.

Black issues a walk.

Hines flips it to Larry. Runner on second, one down.

Vandy adds to their lead with an RBI single.

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Black gets a strikeout, two down.

Black gets a strikeout for the third out.

Bottom of the 6th

Hujsak splits the gap in left field for a double.

Jordan strikes out, one down.

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Kohler pops out, two down.

Larry rips an RBI single into center field,

Hines strikes out to end the inning.

MSU trails 3-1.

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Top of the 6th

Cijntje gets a strikeout, one down.

Hines steps on the bag, two down.

Larry throws to Cijntje for the third out.

Bottom of the 5th

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Powell grounds out to the third baseman, one down.

Long grounds out to the pitcher, two down.

Chance works a walk.

Mershon grounds out to third base to end the inning.

MSU trails 3-0.

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Top of the 5th

Cijntje issues a leadoff walk.

Hewett grounds a single into right field. Runners on the corners.

A run will score on a wild pitch.

Hujsak makes the grab, one down. Runner on third.

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Mershon throws to Long, who tags the runner heading home, two down.

Cijntje throws to Hines for the third out.

Bottom of the 4th

Jordan flies out to center field, one down.

Kohler beats the shift for a one-out single.

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Larry lines out to center field, two down.

Hines strikes out to end the inning.

MSU trails 2-0.

Top of the 4th

Cijntje gets a strikeout, one down.

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Another strikeout for Cijntje, two down.

Polk drops a single into right field.

Nine strikeouts now for Cijntje as he strikes out the side.

Bottom of the 3rd

Chance pops out to the first baseman, one down.

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Mershon grounds out to the second baseman, two down.

Hujsak strikes out to end the inning.

MSU trails 2-0.

Top of the 3rd

Holcomb grounds a single into center field.

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Rodgers reaches on a bunt. Runners on first and second.

Cijntje throws to Larry, one down.

Cijntje hits the batter with a pitch to load the bases.

Diaz lines a single into left field, and two runners score.

MSU turns a 6-4-3 double play.

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Bottom of the 2nd

Larry pops out to the shortstop, one down.

Hines pops out to the catcher, two down.

Powell lines a single into left field.

Long strikes out to end the inning.

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Tied at zero.

Top of the 2nd

Another strikeout for Cijntje, one down.

Cijntje up to five strikeouts, two down.

Once again, Cijntje strikes out the side.

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Bottom of the 1st

Chance strikes out looking, one down.

Mershon grounds a single into right field.

Hujsak is hit by the pitch.

Jordan strikes out on three pitches, two down.

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Kohler strikes out to end the inning.

Tied at zero.

Top of the 1st

Cijntje gets a strikeout, one down.

Another strikeout for Cijntje, two down.

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Cijntje strikes out the side.

Mississippi State Lineup

LF Bryce Chance 

SS David Mershon 

CF Connor Hujsak

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RF Dakota Jordan

3B Logan Kohler 

2B Amani Larry

1B Hunter Hines 

DH Joe Powell

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C Johnny Long

SP Jurrangelo Cijntje 

Vanderbilt Lineup

SS Jonathan Vastine

3B Davis Diaz

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2B RJ Austin

C Alan Espinal 

DH Colin Barci 

RF Matthew Polk

1B Braden Holcomb

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LF JD Rodgers

CF Calvin Hewett

 SP JD Thompson 



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HPD recognized at 2024 Mississippi Public Safety Summit for saving baby’s life

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HPD recognized at 2024 Mississippi Public Safety Summit for saving baby’s life


From Hattiesburg Police Department Public Information Office

FLOWOOD, Miss. (WDAM) – A Hattiesburg police officer was recognized for saving a baby’s life and honored Wednesday at the 2024 Mississippi Public Safety Summit.

Hattiesburg Police Department Lt. Joe Kennedy was one of two law enforcement officers to receive recognition with a “First Responder of the Year Award.”

Kennedy was recognized for his life-saving emergency medical care to a baby at a restaurant in Petal on Jan. 23, 2023.

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Gov. Tate Reeves, Attorney General Lynn Fitch, and Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety Sean Tindell presented this year’s Governor’s Public Safety Awards.

The Public Safety Awards recognize those who were outstanding in their efforts to serve and protect residents across the state.

Kennedy and Flowood Police Department Officer Will Brantley were both designated as First Responder of the Year.

Brantley came to the aid of a choking baby while on shift in his patrol car on Oct. 6, 2023.

“Let me say this as clearly as possible,” Reeves said. “Lt. Kennedy and Officer Brantley are both heroes. Their actions saved the lives of two babies.

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I’m incredibly thankful that God placed good men such as Lt. Kennedy and Officer Brantley in the right place at the right time. Their actions forever changed the lives of those children, as well as their families. That will never be forgotten, and our entire state is grateful to them.”

The winners of the safety awards are selected by Reeves based on candidate nominations by their peers in the public safety realm.

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