VISTA fights poverty in the region through education and service

Published 11:07 am Thursday, September 9, 2021

The North Mississippi VISTA Project is holding a food donation drive for the University of Mississippi’s The Grove Grocery in dedication and remembrance of September 11th for National Days of Service.

The NMVP is a key initiative of the McLean Institute of Public Service and Community Engagement that works to eradicate poverty through education across the region.

The project has scouts for employees and places them in various North Mississippi communities to partner with the local organizations, nonprofits, partner schools and the University of North Mississippi. There are currently VISTA members working at the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, in many departments at the University and in the Delta region.

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“[VISTA employees] don’t get to see each other face to face very often,” said Susan Van Fleet, VISTA leader. “They are usually at their sites 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday. Days of Service are not only an opportunity to do some direct service, but also an opportunity for them to commune.”

On Tuesday, the Oxford Community Market’s VISTA member Jaden Pounds was manning the OCM table, managing volunteers and collecting donations for the university pantry and leftover, fresh produce for the city’s food pantry.

Pounds was a VISTA volunteer at the OCM for a couple of years before taking over the market as a full-time member.

“At the market, our slogan is ‘More than a market,’ so we do a lot of nonprofit work and community outreach,” said Pounds.

One community outreach initiative is the organization’s partnership with campus organization, Flower of Life. According to Pounds, they work together by gathering leftover food from Greek houses and distribute them in food-scarce communities.

“It’s been a great time,” said Pounds.

If the public cannot donate through local VISTA members, NMVP encourages donating to the university’s pantry or the city’s pantry directly.

For more information about the North Mississippi VISTA Project and their drive, visit