The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta's Vulnerability to Health & Economic Crises; and Request to Aid Your Local Food Banks

Posted on March 23, 2020 at 05:47 PM

As we all do our best to deal with the economic, physical and other impacts from the coronavirus, we encourage federal, state, local and private sector entities to take prompt, effective action in responding to the pandemic. In keeping with our efforts to disseminate information about our region, we would like to convey recent reports regarding economically vulnerable populations in two of our states: Arkansas and Mississippi.

We also provide contact information for food banks across the region and encourage our partners to do what they can to help those in need of food during this crisis. Donations on their websites are especially easy, fast and effective ways to help.

We also provide contact information for the USDA National Hunger Hotline for information about obtaining food. This is maintained by the national anti-hunger and poverty organization Hunger Free America (


I. “ALICE” Report on Arkansans either below the poverty level or with limited income and assets’

II. Rethink Mississippi article on Mississippi’s vulnerability to economic downturns and health care crises

III. Short list of suggestions for partners to urge action on the part of federal, state and local powers that be- more affordable care for the elderly, housing and employee benefits, more affordable child care, a state earned income tax credit, greater funding for SNAP, school meals, WIC during this crisis

IV. Support your local food banks—list of contact information for food banks in the 8-state Greater Delta Region. A financial donation is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to help in this crisis.

USDA NATIONAL HUNGER HOTLINE—for GENERAL information about obtaining food—website at:

For over two years, Hunger Free AmericaTM has been operating the USDA National Hunger Hotline. The hotline is a resource for individuals and families seeking information on how to obtain food. The National Hunger Hotline staff connects callers with emergency food providers in their community, government assistance programs, and various social services.

The hotline can be reached at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish) from Monday through Friday (7 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET).

I. Many Arkansans who have jobs are still economically vulnerable:

A recent report from the national nonprofit United for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and Entergy Arkansas found that 24% of Arkansas households had enough income to place them above the federal poverty level but not enough to make ends meet or save for the future.

Another 17% of Arkansas families earn less than the federal poverty level. Together with the ALICE category of Asset Limited, Income Constrained Employed people, this means that 41% of the population are threatened with acute financial distress from a natural disaster, unexpected expense or illness.

Mississippi’s slow recovery from the last recession left our country’s poorest state even further behind: An article by Jake McGraw, public policy coordinator for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation based in Jackson, Mississippi published an article in the Institute’s publication Rethink Misssissippi in which he cited research from Prosperity Now that more than half of Mississippians do not have enough cash savings to cover basic expenses for three months without income. One quarter ot Mississippi households could not get by even if they sold their largest possessions like a house or car.

This article cited figures that Mississippi’s economy has still not fully recovered from the last recession over 10 years ago. The state’s total economic output in 2018 was 1.5% lower than it was in 2008, personal income grew at only 1% a year since 2008, last among all the states and less than half the national growth rate. The unemployment rate of 5.5% was second highest in the country (after Alaska) and rising at the fastest pace in the USA even before the coronavirus pandemic.

NOTE: The Delta Caucus will of course follow the recommendations of the appropriate authorities regarding the May 28-29, 2020 Greater Delta Region Summit in Little Rock. Some authorities estimate that the coronavirus spread may begin to slow by late April, others believe it will get worse for a longer time, but of course we just don’t know. We will follow medical, scientific and other appropriate authorities’ information, consider a meeting with a small number of speakers live-streamed by social media if the pandemic prevents holding the conference as planned, or we may postpone it to a later date. We will continue monitoring the situation.

Any registration fees will be applied to the Delta Summit whenever it is held.

Income and asset constrained working families in Arkansas: Stephanie Hoopes, director of United for ALICE, was quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as saying that if people in the ALICE category “would get sick, ALICE doesn’t have any additional money for health care. ALICE usually works at hourly paid jobs, and to not get paid and forgo a week or two weeks’ worth of wages, it could be devastating.” The ALICE report utilized 2017 census data, tax data, housing data and other economic information.

The Arkansas Delta is especially vulnerable. Lee County in the heartland east Arkansas Delta had the largest number of people earning under the ALICE threshold at 64%. About 63% of seniors were below the threshold, and African American and Hispanic households are disproportionately higher in the ALICE category.

Arkansas like Mississippi has faced challenges in fully recovering from the last recession. The percentage of Arkansans struggling to make ends meet increased by 20% from 2007 to 2017. But the cost of living rose over that time, and the federal poverty line does not accurately measure what is needed to maintain a family.

The federal poverty level is $24,600 for a family of four and $12,060 for a single adult. For a family of four, household expenses were $46,812. Sharece West-Scantlebury, CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation, said the federal poverty line “is not sufficient in terms of what it really takes to run a family.” The federal poverty level was established in the 1960s.

II. Contact your Members of Congress and state governments about responses to the crisis:

Solutions in the report included more affordable care for the elderly, housing and employee benefits, more affordable child care, and a state earned income tax credit.

Delta Caucus partners emphasize it is imperative that SNAP, school meals, Women, Infants and Children nutrition programs be continued at full funding for the duration of the pandemic.

Regarding nutrition programs, we would like to quote part of a statement from Joel Berg, CEO of the national anti-hunger and poverty organization Hunger Free America urging that an increase in overall SNAP purchasing power must remain a part of the bill inorder to prevent the existing hunger crises from getting worse and to keep grocery stores, farmers’ markets and corner food stores from closing:

“…In 2018, when the economy was still strong, 37 million Americans — including 11 million children — lived in food insecure households, unable to afford an adequate supply of food. In the last few days, tens of millions of low-income students have lost access to school lunches, breakfasts, and after-school snacks and suppers due to school closures. The heroic efforts of schools to deliver alternative meals are only serving a small portion of kids who regularly eat school meals. Large numbers of older Americans have lost meals due to senior center shutdowns. In addition, millions of Americans who previously worked for modest wages and/or depended on tips to survive have suddenly lost jobs and/or have suffered from dramatic reductions in incomes.

All of this has greatly worsened the country’s pre-existing hunger crisis. This is the first time in modern U.S. history that we have seen a nationwide natural disaster combined with an economic collapse, so we can’t even begin to imagine the long-term devastation for the nation, particularly for the vast number of people struggling to afford food before the crisis.

Congress and the President must enact a massive increase in food aid — now…”

Please keep the severity of this regional and national in mind in communications with the powers that be. We are encouraging Congress to promptly pass a stimulus package that will provide broad-based help to those who most need it.

III. The recession in Mississippi:

Jake McGraw’s article in Rethink Mississippi stated that Mississippi’s lethargic recovery had left the poorest state in the country even further behind. The deficit in Mississippi’s unemployment rate and the national rate more than doubled since 2008, while the gap in personal income increased from $10,400 to $16,600.

Unfortunately, the sectors that make up a disproportionately large percentage of Mississippi’s workforce in leisure, hospitality and retail are among those hit first in this downturn.

Initial unemployment claims rose by 33% last week across the country in the first wave of shocks, and upcoming blows will likely be even worse, according to most economic analysts. We would encourage Congress to come up with a strong stimulus package including the broad-based features mentioned above, but state governments can also take more action. In Mississippi the state government does not provide much of a cushion for people who become unemployed or ill. McGraw points out that state law does not require paid medical or family leave, unemployment insurance is the nation’s lowest at $235 a week and only reaches 14% of unemployed, according to the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

The federal government pays for most of the safety net programs, the state of Mississippi set most of the eligibility requirements and limites Medicaid, SNAP and TANF aid to only part of the state’s low-income people. The Legislature recently passed a bill giving local governments the choice of paying employees on administrative leave but rejected an amendment to give leave pay to private sector workers. We would ask our Mississippi partners to weigh in on this set of issues and ask federal, state and local officials to be generous and help public and private sector employees survive this crisis.

IV. Contact your local food banks for information on how to get food to those in need, and consider a financial donation of any amount to your local food bank:

Below is a list of contact information for the Feeding America food banks in our 8-state region. They can also get you in touch with a local food pantry if you are not near the city where their headquarters is located.

The websites have links that say “Donate,” and this is the quickest and easiest way to help out in this crisis. It just takes a minute, and for example a $1 contribution will provide 5 healthy meals, a $50 contribution will provide 250 healthy meals. Even small contributions help!

Financial donations are the most useful way to help, but food donatIons are welcomed as well! The best foods are peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauce, canned meat, oatmeal and water. At most food banks, food donors are directed to the warehouse dock to donate because the lobby is closed to the public to adhere to social distancing.

If you call the food bank they can direct you to food pantries for those in need of food. I contributed today and the entire process took less than one minute.

You will need to type in the website listing and go directly to the foodbank—this is not a direct link.

The national Feeding America website is at

Feeding America Food Banks in the Greater Delta Region:

Feeding America Food Banks in the Greater Delta Region:


  1. Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas Jonesboro, Arkansas (870) 932-3663 Website:

  2. Arkansas Foodbank Little Rock, Arkansas (501) 565-8121


  1. Selma, Alabama Area Food Bank Selma, Alabama 334-872-4111

  2. West Alabama Food Bank Northport, Alabama (205) 333-5353


  1. Central Illinois Food Bank Springfield, Illinois (217) 522-4022


  1. Purchase Area Development District Food Bank Mayfield, Kentucky (270) 247-7171


  1. Food Bank of Central Louisiana Alexandria, Louisiana (318) 445-2773

  2. Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank Baton Rouge, Louisiana (225) 359-9940

  3. Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana (318) 322-3567

  4. Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadia New Orleans, Louisiana (504) 734-1322


  1. Southeast Missouri Food Bank Cape Girardeau, Missouri (573) 651-0400


  1. Mississippi Food Network Jackson, Mississippi (601) 973-7080


  1. Mid-South Food Bank Memphis, Tennessee (901) 527-0841