Extra Table is committed to fighting food insecurity with nutritious foods. Credit: Photo courtesy Extra Table

Securing a job is not enough to guarantee a person won’t go hungry, finds the latest report from Hunger Free America, a New York-based nonprofit.

In Mississippi, nearly 12 percent of working adults lived in households that couldn’t always afford enough food between 2016 and 2018. Nearly half a million people in Mississippi were food insecure, making it the third hungriest state in the nation.

Mississippi is one of just six states that has not enacted its own minimum wage, one of the factors that determines a person’s ability to afford food, according to the report. Most employees in those states are covered under the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which hasn’t increased since 2009.

The report authors found that hungry Mississippians would need to spend $227 million more on food to meet their basic needs and spend as much on food as non-hungry Mississippians. Higher wages and increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program spending could help bridge the gap.

Mississippi stopped waiving the federal work requirement for non-disabled food assistance recipients in 2016, a similar move the federal government is set to impose on all states. Under new U.S. Department of Agriculture rules set to take effect in April, some Mississippi recipients could see benefit increases of more than $14 a month.

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Anna Wolfe, a native of Tacoma, Wa., is an investigative reporter writing about poverty and economic justice. Before joining the staff at Mississippi Today in September of 2018, Anna worked for three years at Clarion Ledger, Mississippi’s statewide daily newspaper. She also worked as an investigative reporter for the Center for Public Integrity and Jackson Free Press, the capital city’s alternative newsweekly. Anna has received national recognition for her work, including the 2021 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the 2021 Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the 2021 John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award, the 2020 Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award and the February 2020 Sidney Award for reporting on Mississippi’s debtors prisons. She received the National Press Foundation’s 2020 Poverty and Inequality Award. She also received first place in the regional Green Eyeshade Awards in 2021 for Public Service in Online Journalism and 2020 for Business Reporting, and the local Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism in 2019 and 2018 for reporting on unfair medical billing practices and hunger in the Mississippi Delta.