Our Emergent Story

The Mississippi Food Policy Council

In the fall of 2017, after deeply listening to Mississippi’s Black, Brown and Indigenous communities who are farmers, fisherfolk, food chain workers, grassroots environmental justice activists and community cultural workers, we began to set in motion a series of internal reflections. Through honest conversations and navigating much discomfort, we realized that we, as a food policy council must engage in deepening our analysis of power, inequities, and disparities from the perspectives of race, class, gender, and region. We committed to engaging in transformative processes to build capacity of the council  and our communities to inform transformative policy that ultimately results in system change.

  1. We embraced the beliefs, values and principles of the MS Food Justice Collaborative as our framework for developing a sustainable culture of policy stewardship.
  2. We are building our capacity to center racial equity, economic justice, environmental justice, labor rights as human rights, healthy communities, ethical leadership and food sovereignty at the core of how we engage on policy.
  3. As members of the MS Food Justice Collaborative, we are working with partner organizations to build their capacities along with ours to center racial equity, economic justice, environmental justice, labor rights as human rights, healthy communities, ethical leadership and food sovereignty at the core of how we collectively strive to transform Mississippi’s Food Systems.
  4. We are developing our people centered food systems agenda, as informed by the legacies and truths of our communities through the lens of public health and ethics, to be responsible stewards of policy.

As the MS Food Policy Council, we engage in our community education, grassroots organizing, value centered coalition building and long term advocacy processes.

Our Social News

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Food Insecurity Map

Our Board

Noel Didla

Noel Didla is an immigrant from South India making Jackson, MS home. As such, Noel is invested in the MS Food Policy Council to build community power through equitable and ethical policy work. Noel believes that people-centered food policy must be informed by a deep analysis of white supremacy, power, class, race, gender and systems.  

Sunny Baker
Vice-Chair and Secretary

I am accountable to the children of Mississippi. I have spent my career in school food reform and have found a niche that allows me to work within and outside of the US Gov’t towards changing how children are fed at schools. It is my belief and dream that all students should receive a free school meal that is delicious, well-balanced, full of locally grown fruits and vegetables, and culturally relevant. My work is focused on improving school and early childcare meals, but I generally know that the more we improve our food system, the better our economy, environment, and families will flourish. I focus on schools but am engaged in systems work and understand that schools/eces are one piece of large system. I do this work for my ancestors, my descendants, and my peers - especially those who are continually up against the world.

Felica Bell

I am a fourth-generation traditional farmer of Brandon, Mississippi training and being the steward of a diversified farm. Thru the various generations, we believed in the health of the family and our neighbors so it was instilled in us to utilize a chemical-free farm management plan which is still being used today. I joined the Mississippi Food Policy Council to be a voice for farmers that want to continue their family traditions but be represented on a larger stage. I am there voice. My whole life has been a training ground for me to continue the message of "Food is Medicine" when it is properly grown, tended to and harvested in a way our body can sustain itself without the disease. 

Calvin Head
Farmer and Director of the 50-year-old Mileston Cooperative Association which provides technical assistance, equipment, and commercial market services for 15 growers.

As a long-time community organizer, I engage an active group of emerging young leaders in serving our community.   

I am involved with the Mississippi Food Policy Council to represent limited resource farmers who are the backbone of food production in our area of the state. We routinely reserve 30% of the produce co-op members grow to supply local residents.
Diego Thompson

I am originally from Uruguay where I studied cultural anthropology and artisanal fisheries in the Eastern region of this country. Currently, I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Mississippi State University. I received my Ph.D. and Master's degrees in Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. My work in the United States and in Latin America has focused on the participation of minority groups in agri-food systems and how rural communities perceive and respond to environmental challenges created by agriculture and/or climate change. With my work at the MFPC, I hope to contribute to improving availability and access to fresh and healthy food in Mississippi, especially among disadvantaged individuals and communities.

Rahel Mathews
As a public health and nutrition professor, my research interests are in healthy eating, food insecurity(or security), health disparities, breastfeeding, child and maternal health, healthy aging, access to clean water.  I think that healthy eating starts with access to food and safe water which depends on multiple factors, from individual, cultural as well as systems(structural) and policy. Though I am not originally from Mississippi, I have lived here for 14 years and have a strong commitment to help communities develop and empower themselves. My life's work and philosophy are centered on researching and eliminating health disparities, through food and nutrition. Evidence-based policy and systems change is a big part of this solution.
Jullian Miller

Julian D. Miller is currently an associate attorney at Forman Watkins & Krutz LLP in Jackson, Mississippi, where he focuses his practice on a variety of civil litigation matters, including commercial litigation, general and products liability matters, governmental litigation and appeals in state and federal court. However, his main focus is developing anti-poverty projects in economic development, public health, and education in the Mississippi Delta that will have a transformational impact on public policy in Mississippi. 

LaCiana McIntyre

Laciana McIntyre, MS is the Health & Wellness Director at The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi (PHM). She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology and a Master’s Degree in Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion from Mississippi State University.  Laciana oversees all health and wellness programs at PHM to include: Farm to School and Farm to ECE, child nutrition, physical activity, and overall obesity prevention. Laciana promotes grassroots health promotion activities, conducts public speaking, provides technical assistance to schools and early care and education centers, collaborates with state departments and community-based organizations, and conducts grant writing. Laciana joined the Mississippi Food Policy Council because she is passionate about educating Mississippians about good health and the importance of local foods; advocating for Farm to School initiatives; and creating awareness about the current challenges in food systems.

Ya-Sin Shabazz

Ya-Sin Shabazz is a Gulf Coast native from Pass Christian, MS. After two years as Director of the Steps Coalition’s Gulf Coast Regional Collaborative, Shabazz recently chartered a small business consulting firm, SO Alternatives, LLC, and looks forward to a 2020 return to Hijra House, a community and faith-based organization anchored in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Under Shabazz’s leadership, Hijra House launched the Efficient and Renewable (ENR) Initiative, prioritizing minority contractors in energy efficiency and renewable energy (EE/RE) projects and teaming with organizations and advocates to educate minority communities on energy policy and planning. Shabazz aims to prioritize a transformative Just Transition in Mississippi’s energy industry while revamping Hijra House; coordinating 2020 Vision: A Gulf Coast Plan for Community Economic Development; and streamlining existing Hijra House programs around food, energy, and water.

Shabazz also serves on the Board of the Mississippi Food Policy Council and the Biloxi Islamic Center (BIC), and spearheads BIC’s pursuit of increased, faith-based programs. Shabazz received a Baccalaureate in Economics/ Political Science from Yale University and is the previous owner/operator of Noor Residential Electrical Services.

Sarah Medlock
Sarah Medlock is a tribal member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI). She has worked for the tribe for 20 years. Since 2016, she has been the Operations Manager for the Office of Economic Development coordinating new educational and workforce development initiatives. She is one of 20 fellows in the first-ever cohort of the Mississippi Food Systems Fellowship for 2020 and 2021, which focuses on improving the health and resilience of local food systems.