Posted on Feb 14, 2019
Many thanks to our guest last Tuesday (L-R): Janice Swiggum, Kelcey Steffens; Club President, Steven Utroska, and Jaclyn Adams.
President Steven Utroska presided over today’s meeting. Jaclyn Adams gave today’s invocation. Wes Brooks led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Thanks to Cole Gressett and Mark Kilingsworth who served as our greeters today. Mike McPhail sat in for Brandon Hodges and thanked those who helped with today’s meeting and then introduced today’s guests. Scott Hummel had Gary Roberson as his guest.
Steven announced that board elections were held at last week’s meeting. The newly elected board members for the coming year will be Katie Anthony, Mallory Donald, Shane Germany, and Cole Gressett. Steven asked that the board have a brief meeting after today’s meeting.
Jaclyn Adams then introduced today’s guest speaker, Kelsey Steffens. Kelsey also brought her newest staff member, Janice Swiggum.  Kelsey is the founder and president of the Give & Take Kitchen Foundation. Its mission is to operate as a food and nutrition resource for the community.
Kelsey noted that Mississippi ranks as one of the three worst states in the nation in many areas. Additionally, we rank at the top of the nation for obesity. She says she founded this foundation because she knows we can do better. However, in order to build a better workforce, achieve financial success and solve our chronic disease problems, we must begin with food and nutrition for those who are at the greatest risk.
One in four children in Forrest and Lamar county suffer from food insecurity. That means that 7,100 children in these two counties aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. Many only get two meals a day at school, and many come back to school on Monday morning having nothing to eat since lunch on Friday. These children are seven times more likely to develop chronic diseases later in life such has hypertension and diabetes. Additionally, 30% of the families affected by this food insecurity don’t qualify for government assistance, including reduced or free meals through the school system. These issues handicap our workforce and economic potential as well as increase the cost of healthcare in our state.
The Give & Take Foundation has its own commercial kitchen and will provide meals and nutrition education to those at the highest risk. They will provide ready-made, nutritious meals that meet USDA nutrition standards. They will also offer an education element to their program, hoping to teach the children and eventually the parents about ways they can improve their nutrition as well as their health.
The Foundation will begin with the Aldersgate Mission’s after-school programs, the Salvation Army’s Boys and Girls Club and Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources. They plan to roll out this service to more than 200 children initially.  They hope to expand to a food-truck type program where they can go into affected neighborhoods and provide their services.
The Foundation is located at 1711 Hardy Street in Hattiesburg. Funding for the start-up came from Kelsey’s family and a fundraiser that generated $17,000. They have applied for non-profit status with the IRS and hope to receive that approval within the next few days.
The biggest struggle, according to Kelsey, has been to convince the community that the problem really exists. Obesity is not just over-eating but is caused by malnutrition. Because parents are trying to stretch their dollars, they buy and serve over-processed, high calorie and sugar-filled convenient foods. Children eat these foods and store the fat because their bodies don’t know when the next meal will come along.
You can help by donating, volunteering and helping them fundraise. Kelsey also asked that you spread the word to your friends, like them on Facebook and sign up for their newsletter. You can do all of that at
Steven thanked our speaker and then adjourned the meeting with our motto, "Service Above Self."