The Ole Miss Food Bank is providing more than a service, its providing care.
“We are all family,” said Savannah Thomas, director of the Ole Miss food bank. “When one of us is hurting then other students are there to pick up the pieces and help in any way."
Students enrolled at the university can use the food bank as much as they want no matter their financial status. The food bank offers nonperishable goods, school supplies and toiletries.
Thomas wants to bring awareness to this service that began in 2012. She wants to eliminate the “embarrassment factor” of coming into the food bank.
“We are all college students,” said Thomas. “There are many different reasons behind not being able to buy food, whether it is a one time thing or a consistent need.”
Student identity is always kept confidential. The food bank asks each student to bring in their Ole Miss ID. However, the student’s name and student ID number is never recorded. The service is strictly for students. Non-students are directed to other pantries in Oxford.
The food bank is always open. During the winter and summer breaks its open for shorter hours. If called, the staff will come and unlock the door even if the food bank is closed. Lindsey Abernathy, food bank staff advisor, said keeping the pantry open is one of the most important jobs for volunteers.
“If anyone that has access to the key is on campus and available, they’ll come unlock it for you,” said Abernathy.
When there aren’t volunteers available, Abernathy and Thomas unlock the doors. Their numbers are posted outside of the food bank door. Thomas recalls being called after a football game. She was debating calling someone else to unlock the door, but ended up going to unlock it herself.
“The customer was overly appreciative and told me she hadn’t eaten all day,” said Thomas. “She kept going on about how positive we were to the campus. It truly humbled me.”
Volunteers are required to attend an hour training session before working at the food bank. They are taught about the confidentiality policy and where to pick up the key. The training sessions occur once a month.
“We’re really thankful to have so many students interested in helping,” said Abernathy. “That way we’re able to keep the food bank open.”
The food bank offers students school supplies and toiletries such as laundry soap. Last year, they added a refrigerator to the pantry to give students fresh options. Abernathy said that the Ole Miss Gardening Club will start providing fresh produce for the food bank. The first harvest is expected this month.
“We have high hopes to get some of that food into the food bank,” said Abernathy.
Thomas and Abernathy both want to see more students utilize the food bank. The food bank takes away the added stress of students trying to find their next meal. They stress that the food bank is anonymous and there’s no limit to how much a student can take.
“We are all in this together and the food bank is grateful to be a vital part of the Ole Miss family,” said Thomas.
Ole Miss is having a celebration of local food in the Student Union on Thursday. The food bank will have a table out to bring awareness to their service. They will also be asking for donations.
Students can donate non-perishable food items, school supplies and toiletries to any of the donation boxes on campus. The items most needed are peanut butter, canned pastas and laundry detergent. The food bank’s big food drive happens around Thanksgiving. Ole Miss hosts its annual “Grove and Give” for donations.
“We hope that students realize that the food bank is there for them,” said Abernathy.
There for them like the rest of the Ole Miss family and community.