DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Poor and fat. It's a deadly combination for Mississippians.
They're the worst of the worst. The US Census Bureau recently placed Mississippi as the poorest state, while its obesity levels are consistently the highest in the nation. It's a combination that seems to go hand in hand.
34% of Mississippi's population is considered obese, a result of poor nutrition. While many believe eating healthy is expensive, several people in northern Mississippi are trying to turn that around.
"It's everyday decisions. You have to make healthier choices," says clinical dietitian Brandi Pigg. Part of that comes from knowing where to look. Pigg works at DeSoto's Baptist Hospital, which recently started a monthly farmers market.
"We're trying to help the community by offering fresh fruits and veggies at a very good price." She says eating healthy is possible even on a tight budget.
"If you buy that packaged diet food that is going to be more expensive. We can educate people on how to purchase fresh fruits and veggies which aren't that expensive."
Across town in Olive Branch that education is starting early. Students at Chickasaw Elementary just took part in what's called Farm to School Day.
"I dressed up as a farmer," says second grader Logan Arnold.
"We really spotlighted that food comes from a farm and connected that with produce children are consuming," says principal Selina Baker.
Today's menu included Arnold's favorite: cantaloupe
"We're serving Mississippi blueberries and Mississippi cantaloupe," says cafeteria manager Dee Blunt.
They're paid for by a state program. DeSoto schools received $100,000 to serve local fruits and veggies all year long.
"A lot of children have never tried kiwi... or nectarines. Or know what a cantaloupe is." she says.
"They try it at school and then go home tell mom, 'Hey, I tried this at school today,' and mom's more likely to buy it at the grocery store so it carries over to home as well," says Baker.