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 is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who covers inequity and corruption in government safety net programs, nonprofit service providers and institutions affecting the marginalized. She began reporting for Mississippi Today in 2018, after she approached the editor with the idea of starting a poverty beat, the first of its kind in the state. Wolfe has received national recognition for her years-long coverage of Mississippi’s welfare program, in which she exposed new details about how officials funneled tens of millions of federal public assistance funds away from needy families and instead to their friends, families and the pet projects of famous athletes. Since joining Mississippi Today, she has received several national honors including the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, the Livingston Award, two Goldsmith Prizes for Investigative Reporting, the Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, the Sacred Cat Award, the Nellie Bly Award, the John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award, the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, the Sidney Award, the National Press Foundation’s Poverty and Inequality Award and others. Previously, Wolfe worked for three years at Clarion Ledger, Mississippi’s statewide newspaper, where she covered city hall, health care, and wrote stories about hunger and medical billing, earning the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism two years in a row. Born and raised on the Puget Sound in Washington State, Wolfe moved to Mississippi in 2012 to attend Mississippi State University, where she currently serves on the Digital Journalism Advisory Board. She has lived in Jackson, Mississippi since graduating in 2014.