Grove Grocery, the University of Mississippi’s food pantry, is expanding and opening a new location in the George Street House on March 1.
Located next to the library and across from the Lyceum, this space will be the Grove Grocery’s second location, while the main pantry will continue operations in Kinard Hall. The expansion will include a kitchen space for UM students to cook alongside a study lounge.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the food pantry’s usage has tripled because of high demand. Before the pandemic, Grove Grocery distributed an average of 140 meals a week, and that number reached 426 in May.
The food pantry has implemented new programs, including Grab-and-Go bags that provide the ingredients to make a specific recipe and grocery order forms for contactless pickup.
Chloe Grant, director of Grove Grocery, said the food pantry volunteers want patrons to feel like someone is actively working to help them, not just giving them leftover resources.
“I think being able to provide fresh and healthy food will really help a lot of students and staff. We want them to know that this is a space for them and that there are people on this campus supporting them so that they can focus on what really matters,” Grant said. “Our original location will still function the same way – you can think of that location as a grocery store and the new location sort of like the Union.”
The second location came out of a new partnership between Grove Grocery and the Student Veterans Association, which was established after student veterans services unveiled the renovated George Street House in January. Because the demand is so high for the food pantry, Grant said they need many more volunteers to extend their hours as much as possible, and the new location will help expand their volunteer operations.
Students who face food insecurity may also face housing or educational challenges. According to Grove Grocery members, this space provides a stocked kitchen to relieve the stress of finding the resources to cook healthy meals.
According to Changing America, more than 1 in 3 students surveyed from 66 schools nationwide face low food security, and 20% face chronic malnutrition from food scarcity.
“We want students, faculty, and staff to know that we are not just a last resort, but a support option at all times,” Anastasia Jones-Burdick, the community outreach committee chair.
Some of Grove Grocery’s future endeavors include increasing publicity, securing additional funding, establishing a paid, dedicated support staff position and modernizing operations.
The new facility will be available to the entire university community upon opening, with the exception of being closed on weekends.