By Alyssa Schnugg
In an effort to provide food for families who are struggling, Oxford community members, organizations and even local government officials are involved in two similar projects that ultimately have the same goal.
In December, the Oxford Community Market, headed up by Betsy Chapman, put up a “cupboard” at the market where anyone could come and take food that was left inside by people who donated food items.
“It was going so well and we had so much food and donations that we decided to expand it,” Chapman said.
OXCM recently obtained a commitment from the Mississippi Care Family Clinic to help build four new cupboards for what is now been dubbed the OXCM Community Cupboard Project.
“They will look nice and be big enough to store the food properly on shelves,” Chapman said.
OXCM is also collecting non-food items for the cupboards including toiletries, hand sanitizer, dish soap, paper products and more.
Chapman said she hopes to have four other locations secured around Oxford in the coming weeks.
“We are working with our community partners to identify locations that will be accessible to people experiencing higher rates of food insecurity,” she said.
Food and other items can be donated at the market which is currently operating under its winter season hours from noon to 3 p.m. each Tuesday at the Old Armory Pavilion.
Chapman is asking the community to be thoughtful with what they donate in an effort to reach people with a variety of needs – from food that doesn’t need to be cooked to providing complete meals – an idea that volunteer Lisa Gathright came up with recently. She has been creating complete meal kits in a bag, like pasta with a can of spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese, or items to create a tuna casserole or pancake mix with syrup and shelf-stable bacon.
“It’s not enough just to put a bag of dry beans in the pantry, because some people who need food don’t have kitchen equipment or things to cook with it,” she said “Some people who need food don’t have electricity. Some people who need food do not have a house. So we wanted to provide a variety of things that gave people more of what they need to make a nice meal for their families and then also include some food in the pantries for people who may not have a kitchen to cook in, like soup, or snacks or canned meats.”
Pantry staples like flour, sugar and cooking oil are also welcomed, Chapman said.
OXCM volunteer Lilly Gray and VISTA’s Brenna Gardner have taken the lead on keeping the cupboard stocked and creating an inventory system to track the quantity and variety of food donated.
Other outreach projects that OXCM is involved in includes a weekly Fresh Food Drive to send fresh produce to the Pantry, matching dollars for SNAP/EBT shoppers, Market Fresh Gift Cards for LOU families to get fresh food at the market, the CB Neighborhood Resilience Garden, WIC/Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and meal delivery to CB Webb and Canterbury Crest through a partnership with UM Greek community.
Little Free Pantries
On Tuesday, Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill announced that the city has temporarily changed the four local Little Free Libraries to Little Free Pantries.
“We encourage our citizens in need to take what you need and our community to feel free to restock these as you are able and willing,” Tannehill said.
The Little Free Pantries are located on South 18th Street, at the Stone Center, at the CB Webb apartment complex and Price Hill Park.
A fifth Little Free Library at Avent Park will remain filled with books for the time being, Tannehill said.