Ole Miss athletes, firms promote food bank

Published 8:43 am Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Wheels Up, the Grove Collective and The Brandr Group collaborated for a community service day in Oxford on Oct 11. As part of Wheels Up’s Meals Up initiative with Feeding America, Ole Miss student-athletes assembled at Pine Lake Church to distribute meals to more than 500 needy families.

This service day is an extension of the NIL partnership among Wheels Up, the Grove Collective and The Brandr Group, aimed at aiding community involvement for Ole Miss student-athletes. 

Erin Zugelder, head of new corporate sales at Wheels Up, shared the company’s excitement over collaborating with the Grove Collective and the Ole Miss student-athletes, noting that Meals Up has already inspired nearly 90 million meals for Feeding America. This event, in association with the Mid-South Food Bank, is a part of that ongoing effort.

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The Mid-South Food Bank, a partner in the Meals Up initiative, works across 31 counties in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and eastern Arkansas, distributing an average of 4 million meals monthly through a network of 400 partner agencies.

Initiated in 2020, Meals Up responded to the escalating food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wheels Up has since contributed nearly 90 million meals to Feeding America and continues to support the local community with the Mid-South Food Bank.

The service day aligns with the group NIL program among The Brandr Group, the Grove Collective, and Wheels Up, offering various activations and engagements for participating student-athletes, with compensation provided through the NIL opportunity for those involved in the service day.

Tre Harris, a wide receiver with the Ole Miss football team, remarked, “The opportunity to give back to our community is one of the best parts about our partnership with the Grove Collective. There are lots of hardworking families who are in need throughout the area, and being able to take some time to be in service to them through this work with Wheels Up at the Mid-South Food Bank is incredibly rewarding. We understand the importance of working together as a team, and they’ve got a tremendous team striving to make a real difference.”

Besides the charitable aspect, the partnership provides Ole Miss student-athletes through the Grove Collective with commercial travel opportunities for their loved ones to attend Ole Miss games and athletic events, eased by Wheels Up’s commercial airline partnership.

Chris Marciani with The Brandr Group mentioned how NIL programs have not only opened new avenues for student-athletes to capitalize on their name, image and likeness but also created pathways for them to make a significant impact in their communities, as displayed by the service day at the Mid-South Food Bank.

Wheels Up, the Grove Collective, and The Brandr Group have come together in this initiative, creating a framework for commercial, athletic, and social ventures to enhance community engagement and support in Oxford.