Community partners join forces to tackle ‘food insecurity’ in region

Published 12:26 pm Thursday, October 19, 2023

Olivia Dunning

The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi has announced the 2023 “Mississippi Hunger Summit.” This event will take place on Friday, Oct.  20, at the Oxford Conference Center. The event is presented in partnership with the Community First Research Center for Wellbeing & Creative Achievement (CREW) at the University of Mississippi and Delta Directions Consortium, as well as the Maddox Foundation and Maddox Foundation Nonprofit and Volunteer Resource Hub.

The Mississippi Hunger Summit is an inclusive gathering open to representatives from food pantries and nonprofits offering feeding programs within the Community Foundation service area. In attendance will also be state agencies, officials, academics and other stakeholders dedicated to addressing the issue of food insecurity, which has become increasingly pressing as the rising cost of groceries drives more Mississippians to seek assistance from food pantries. 

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The central goal of this summit is to establish vital connections between food pantries and  potential resources that can better serve their communities. It encourages participants to explore innovative approaches that go beyond the traditional pantry model. 

The event will feature panel discussions covering critical topics, including how to resource food pantries, the role of farmers in addressing food insecurity, understanding the impact of food  insecurity in educational settings, and exploring the concept of food pantries as community  connectors. Dr. Scott Hambleton from Molina Healthcare will be the keynote lunch speaker,  providing insights into the intersection of mental health and food insecurity. 

The FEED Fund was initiated in 2020 at the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi in response to the pandemic. The staff observed that a significant number of schoolchildren who typically relied on school meals were going hungry at home due to pandemic related disruptions. Simultaneously, local food pantries struggled to meet the surging demand. 

Brenda Smith, co-director of the Maddox Foundation Nonprofit and Volunteer Resource  Hub, was among the first to identify this growing need within the community. She promptly embarked on efforts to secure the necessary funding to provide meals to those in need.

“Aside from supplying food to children, the FEED Fund also aids food pantries in  enhancing their operations,” Smith said. “The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi  and Maddox Nonprofit and Volunteer Resource Hub staff put in dedicated efforts to assist pantries in transitioning to safe drive-through delivery systems and using innovative methods to serve the  community. Recognizing the pressing need for pantry improvements, staff found that many lacked adequate refrigeration and freezer space, as well as pallet jacks to streamline food handling with  fewer volunteers.” 

The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi in addition to the Maddox Nonprofit and Volunteer Resource Hub, through the FEED Fund and the Hunger Summit, is dedicated to helping nonprofits enhance their abilities in developing innovative solutions to address their  communities’ needs. 

Jillian Morrison, a Delta legal fellow, has been a key organizer in this year’s “Mississippi  Hunger Summit” and expressed her enthusiasm about the event. “We are so excited to build off the momentum of the FEED Fund initiative and bring  together our food pantries and others working in the food insecurity space,” Morrison stated. “Food  insecurity isn’t going away, and we need to collaborate on strategies to address this growing need  moving forward.

“Nonprofits, academic institutions, state agencies and philanthropic partners all  have important parts to play in addressing food insecurity. The Hunger Summit is an important  step towards building sustainable partnerships and collaboration moving forward.” 

For more information about this program or the Community Foundation, call 662-449-5002 or visit  

The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi manages 300 donor-established funds and has disbursed more than $39 million to support more than 800 charitable organizations and activities recommended by its donors, as well as charitable programs established by the  foundation.

Established in 2002 with a generous grant from the Maddox Foundation, the Community Foundation is an independent 501(c)3 charitable organization. The foundation serves Bolivar, Coahoma, DeSoto, Leflore, Marshall, Panola, Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate and Tunica counties. Learn more about the Community Foundation at