Chicago man enlists coastal citizens to help with 'food deserts'

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Chicago based reverend is hoping to close the gap when it comes to healthy eating. Reverend Al Sampson is President of The George Washington Carver Farms. Monday, The Coalition of African American Communities invited him to Gulfport to spread that message.

As he addressed the crowd at the Habitat for Humanity building in Gulfport, Reverend Dr. Al Sampson got straight to his point, that a change is overdue.

"Sometimes the grocery stores are too far away and the food we eat is causing the diseases we have," Sampson said.

Sampson, who was ordained by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, is originally from Massachusetts.  He has traveled the country hoping to create a marriage between the consumers up north and farmers in the South.

While fresh produce, full of vital nutrients, is easily accessible to some. But for others, that is absolutely not the case. Those cases are known as 'food deserts.' The term refers to a region of the country or neighborhood that doesn't have access to healthy food options.

"A lot of people have not heard the term 'food desert.' If you're not close to an area where you can get healthy foods, it's pretty bad. It's going to help a lot of people if we can get to food to those places, especially in Mississippi. Just to be able to provide a place where people can get healthy foods," Bishop Anthony Thompson said.

Thompson met The Reverend at an event in Birmingham and asked him to bring his message to the Gulf Coast. The reality is so many people in the country have fresh produce available at their finger tips. That's why at times it can be hard to believe that there are others, who don't.

Through meetings like this one, community activists and leaders are encouraged to get involved with farmers markets, while also supporting local farmers.

"We'll be trying to talk about some connections we can make with the state port. We'll probably be talking about some of the black fishermen and the black farmers to be able to work with them to help get this produce to the places it's needed," Thompson said.

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