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UM Garden Club, Food Bank Target Local Food Insecurity

Not all meetings take place seated around an office table. Every Wednesday, the Ole Miss Garden Club plants their roots in the soil behind South Residential College to address a local issue.

At these meetings, student gardeners harvest and plant local produce, including okra, tomatoes, broccoli and radishes. Members weed the beds then wash, sort and bag their best picks, but where the produce goes after harvest is what members find so special.
Garden Club President Maggie Smith loves getting her hands dirty to donate their produce to UM students in need.
“One of the most rewarding things about Garden Club is knowing that we are making a positive impact by donating fresh and local produce,” Smith said. “Going to the Food Bank week after week and seeing that produce has been taken by someone in need is very exciting.”
Smith said their gardening gives those who are “food insecure” in Oxford a chance to have healthy, fresh food, which is something many people do not typically think to donate.
Students in need find the Garden Club’s local produce at the Food Bank, along with fresh spices, dry foods, canned goods and even toiletry items.
Food Bank secretary Amber Cain said there are more students with food insecurities than many people in Oxford realize. About 10 students grocery shop in the Food Bank each week free of charge.
“A lot of times, they kind of get lost in the crowd,” Cain said. “People don’t realize that there are students who are trying to pay for their own tuition and books and things of that sort, and they do need food — not only food but healthy food options.”
The issue of local food insecurity expands even larger than just the University of Mississippi community.
John Kohne, the director of Food Distribution at the Pantry of Oxford and Lafayette County, sees many adults and families who rely on these food supports.
“We see people seriously in need as residents of Lafayette County,” Kohne said. “We have lots of repetitive visitors. Some are considered ’emergency’ visitors, so they have an unlimited amount of visits.”
Kohne said that as the Lafayette County population grows, so the number of food insecure residents grows as well as the need for food supports.
Smith, Cain and Kohne all encourage Oxford residents to donate to better serve the local community.
“It’s a great thing to contribute to something bigger than just you, especially an issue that doesn’t really get a lot of attention,” Cain said. “Helping these people get the food supports they need is so rewarding.”

By Hailey McKee, an intern for HottyToddy.com.
For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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