The Center for MS Food Systems: an emergent space that stewards and supports regional economies and food systems transformation

The Center for MS Food Systems is an emergent space that stewards and supports regional economies & food systems transformation through state and federal level policy work, building coalition power across four regions in the state, and through ethical, equitable, just and sustainable leadership development through the fellowship program. The Center is also engaged in skilling up of individual and institutional partners to become equitable, just and ethical stewards of transforming regional food systems and economies.

Few years ago, Black, Indigenous, and Asian American food systems stakeholders and allies from across the state of Mississippi convened together for the first time to dream about transforming the local and state level food systems. In 2016, the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative was formed, consisting of organizational partners whose work is local, regional, statewide and national in scope. These partners are committed to working in four regions of the state that have historically been some of the most impacted by systemic oppression and divestments: the Delta, Central MS, the Coast and the MS Choctaw.

The relationships between the Collaborative partners led to the development and commitment to the practice of Beliefs, Values and Principles as a shared framework in 2018. The Collaborative launched the MS Food Systems Fellowship to nurture MS Food Systems Thinkers and created a sustainable and ethical BIPOC food systems leadership pipeline in 2019.

The momentum, trust and hopes we were able to build so far have culminated in our collective courage and determination to fully commit to this work as individuals, institutions, and a committed network of 9 institutions. We are clear that participatory budgeting, participatory action research and participatory visioning processes will be our long term path to democratically hold and grow our cultures, structures, and relationships. Our deep desire and determination is towards developing sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure through which we are able to support our work and also regeneratively resource our partners and other BIPOC-led food and climate movements. Our ultimate goal is to transform our regional economies and systems through relationships centered and values aligned sustainable development.

This work is being anchored by a team of four stewards: Asha, Liz, Alex and Noel, and the project is a fiscally sponsored entity based at Project South.