In Mississippi, educational disparities and residential segregation help create pockets of poverty that endanger women and children and limit opportunities for young adults. Studies have proclaimed it the “worst state for women,” a state where women earn 26 percent less than men. And though the teen birth rate is the highest in the nation, the state offers no publicly funded childcare. What’s more, enrolling two children in full-time care consumes 70 percent of a minimum wage earner’s salary. As a result, in 2007, 261,000 Mississippi children lived in poverty—almost twice the national average. By partnering with foundations, organizations and concerned community members, we’re working to give children living in the Delta, in north Mississippi and in other vulnerable communities pathways to better education, equality and security.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has been partnering with grantees in Mississippi for more than 40 years now. Over time and in relationship, Mississippi communities have left their mark on the foundation’s legacy, just as investments and energy have reshaped grantee communities and institutions. And, as in any respectful relationship cultivated over long periods of time, the depth of connection has evolved with challenging times and changing circumstances.
Because of these relationships and our belief in the possibilities in Mississippi, we made the decision in 2007 to formally name Mississippi as a priority place. We made a commitment to support local communities for at least a generation because we realize that change doesn’t happen overnight. We are committed to improving the conditions children face, and we know if we are successful, it will change the trajectory of lives and communities throughout the state, and serve as a powerful example of what is possible in communities across this nation.