As the holidays approach, food pantries on campus and in the Oxford-Lafayette County community seek increases in donations. The Pantry, located on Molly Barr Road, serves many citizens during the holidays — around 1,500 people during November and December.
Volunteers are the only people responsible for stocking the pantry with food and distributing the food items to those in need. Churches from all denominations and religions and other philanthropic organizations take turns volunteering each month, working Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. November and December are The Pantry’s busiest months.
The volunteers don’t receive any payment or benefits other than enjoying helping out their fellow neighbors and citizens during a time of need.
“We welcome volunteers,” said Carol Wedge, co-manager of The Pantry. “At least 12 people volunteer at the pantry every day, and it helps a lot.”
Wedge started volunteering 16 years ago, when she realized her church was involved with the local mission project. Ever since, Wedge has continued to donate her time to The Pantry.
“I started working with my church on days off from my job,” Wedge said. “Volunteering is just how my parents raised me.”
Sometimes, the food pantry recipients are senior citizens who are on fixed incomes and may not be able to afford groceries on a regular basis.
“They have to choose between a prescription and food some weeks, and we don’t want them to go without their medicine,” Wedge said.
In addition to in-person volunteering, The Pantry needs donations of healthy canned goods.
Wedge said peanut butter, soup, pasta, canned fruit, canned meat and spaghetti noodles are the things most needed right now. These items are among the most requested and are often some of the first to run out.
Mike Williams, a member of Oxford Church of Christ, has been donating time and resources to The Pantry for as long as he can remember, and said he loves it. Every November, Williams and his team of volunteers help with The Pantry.
“We try to make (The Pantry) as much like a grocery store as possible,” Williams said. “I really enjoy interacting with different people and serving others and seeing a smile on their face.”
Williams said contributing to local causes is extremely important.
“The most important thing I can tell people is to volunteer and donate in whatever way you can,” Williams said. “Whether that be with a fraternity or sorority, a church or on your own, please volunteer.”
On campus, the Ole Miss Food Bank in Kinard Hall serves around 75 students a month. It also seeks donations for the holidays.
The food bank works to ensure students use the bank, but it also makes certain to protect their identities. The only requirement is that students show their student IDs, but their ID numbers and names are not recorded.
While on-campus events and initiatives benefit the food bank, they are often not enough to fulfill all of its needs.
“We almost always have people doing canned food drives, which is good, but we do need other things,” said Kate Childers, co-director of the Ole Miss Food Bank.
The food bank puts together grab-and-go bags with meals for students to get when the food bank isn’t open.
Childers said the Ole Miss Food Bank is currently in need of frozen meals, cereals, pasta and peanut butter.