Ole Miss grad spent four years helping to address food insecurity

Published 12:32 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

As a freshman in 2020 at the University of Mississippi, Jackson McArthur decided he wanted to do some volunteer work. Being impressed with the Oxford Community Market, he knew he wanted to think of a way to help with food insecurity in the LOU community.

He got an idea to take leftover food from sorority and fraternity houses then package and distribute that food to people in need. He and another student, Zach Tillotson, started approaching the houses on campus.

“It started small,” McArthur said. “We just went from one house to another and handed out flyers and eventually we had a few houses who consistently donated food to us.”

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The houses participating include Tri Delta, Chi O, AOPi and Pi Beta Phi.

Restaurants donated the to-go boxes and McArthur and other volunteers filled up the boxes and delivered them to different neighborhoods every Friday.

That idea grew and for four years, McArthur has been working alongside OXCM and its volunteers to establish several programs to address food insecurity while providing educational programs to area children.

He graduated from Ole Miss last week and will be attending the Ole Miss Law School this fall after some downtime back at home in Ocean Springs.

Jackson helped establish the OXCM Flower of Life Volunteer Squad, a community-student collaboration founded in September 2020. This group was originally founded in response to the COVID-19 crisis, to meet basic needs, address food insecurity, build community connections, and provide educational/enrichment activities in underserved communities.

Since establishing OXCM Flower of Life, Jackson has led grassroots community workdays every Friday afternoon during the academic year and has made a big impact on the Oxford community, said Betsy Chapman, director of OXCM.

“Jackson’s efforts are beyond simple community engagement,” Chapman said. “He spent four years building an actual movement of UM students connecting to the community through meaningful work to provide much-needed resources to those most deserving of goodwill. I have never seen this kind of sustained and organized weekly direct action to meet community needs. It has been an hour to watch and guide his work and see him inspire so many students to join the effort.”

McArthur also helped to establish the neighborhood garden program at CB Webb apartments where volunteers built several raised garden boxes to grow fresh produce for the community.

“The kids living there would get come out and help and got involved,” McArthur said. “It created a neat community space.”

From the garden grew an opportunity for educational experiences for the children who formed the Grow Club where they learned about nutrition and healthy eating as well as how to tend the gardens.

While he will return to Oxford in August to start law school, McArthur has passed the torch of heading up the Flower of Life club to Elizabeth Basha, who will be a junior at Ole Miss in the fall.

McArthur said he couldn’t have done all he accomplished without the help of many, including Chapman, Brenna Gardner, Brianna McCollum, Jaden Pounds, Elizabeth Smith, Elizabeth Basha, Verna Stokes, JB Franklin, Dianne Beaufort, Ethel Goolsbyb and MacArther Quarles.

“I’m going to try to stop by when I can. I want to continue to help the people in these communities but maybe in a different way now,” he said. “But I know we have a great group of volunteers who are going to keep it going.”