Ole Miss food bank eliminates some student stress
By Jac Bedrossian
Savannah Thomas, director of the Ole Miss Food Bank, once received a call from a hungry student after an Ole Miss football game.
“The customer was overly appreciative and told me she hadn’t eaten all day,” Thomas said. “She kept going on about how positive we were to the campus. It truly humbled me.”
That’s one reason Thomas continues to lead the the program that provides nonperishable goods, school supplies and toiletries to UM students.
“We are all family,” she said. “When one of us is hurting, then other students are there to pick up the pieces and help in any way.”
UM students can use the food bank as much as they want, no matter their financial status.
Thomas wants to bring awareness to this service that began in 2012 and eliminate the “embarrassment factor” of coming to the food bank.
“We are all college students,” Thomas said. “There are many different reasons behind not being able to buy food, whether it is a one time thing or a consistent need.”
Student identity is always kept confidential. The food bank asks each student to bring their Ole Miss ID. However, the student’s name and student ID number is never recorded. The service is strictly for students. Non-students are directed to other pantries in Oxford.
The food bank is open year-round. There are limited hours during school breaks, but getting the door unlocked is only a call away.
Lindsey Abernathy, food bank staff adviser, said one of the most important jobs of being a volunteer is opening the pantry.
“If anyone that has access to the key is on campus and available, they’ll come unlock it for you,” she said.
When volunteers aren’t available, Abernathy and Thomas unlock the doors. Their numbers are posted outside the food bank door.
Volunteers are required to attend an hour training session before working at the food bank. They are taught about the confidentiality policy and where to pick up the key. The training sessions occur once a month.
“We’re really thankful to have so many students interested in helping,” Abernathy said. “That way we’re able to keep the food bank open.”
The food bank offers students school supplies and toiletries such as laundry soap. Last year, they added a refrigerator to the pantry to give students fresh options.
Abernathy said the Ole Miss Gardening Club will begin providing fresh produce for the food bank. The first harvest is expected this month.
“We have high hopes to get some of that food into the food bank,” Abernathy said.
Thomas and Abernathy both want to see more students utilize the food bank. The food bank takes away the added stress of trying to find a next meal. They said there’s no limit to how much food a student can take.
“We are all in this together, and the food bank is grateful to be a vital part of the Ole Miss family,” Thomas said.
Students can donate non-perishable food items, school supplies and toiletries to any of the donation boxes on campus.
The items most needed are peanut butter, canned pastas and laundry detergent.
The food bank’s big food drive happens around Thanksgiving. Ole Miss hosts its annual “Grove and Give” for donations.
“We hope that students realize that the food bank is there for them,” Abernathy said.