A generous donation to the Ole Miss Food Bank from a local merchant is helping ensure more University of Mississippi students and employees have opportunities to receive a varied selection of healthy food at no cost to them this academic year.
The Kroger supermarket in Oxford has given $11,000 to the campus food assistance program. Housed in Kinard Hall, Room 213, the food bank serves an average of 110 people annually but has been growing the past few years.
“This donation is incredibly helpful for us,” said Kate Reinhardt, a senior secondary math education major from St. Louis and the food bank’s co-director. “As we promote the food bank and bring in more customers, we also run into the issue of stocking enough food for everyone.”
The food bank receives food donations through bins across campus and by hosting food drives. These donations, while incredibly valuable to the food bank, may not always yield what is most needed.
“With this donation, we are able to purchase healthy food in bulk at the awesome low Kroger prices,” Reinhardt said. “We put together the list of food that is most needed, and Kroger orders it for us at the lowest cost.
“This donation ensures that we will be well-stocked for the upcoming year. It also ensures that we are providing nutritious food options like whole-wheat cereals, granola bars and frozen produce – some of our most requested items.”
Reinhardt said she expects the food bank to serve about 25 people per month from here on out. The only eligibility requirements are that the customer is an Ole Miss student – undergraduate or graduate – or a faculty/staff member.
“They do not have to apply to use our service,” she said. “We accept all students, faculty and staff and keep a comfortable, discreet environment.”
Reinhardt said she and Shane Fererro, the previous food bank director, worked with Kroger last spring.
“Shane was the first one in contact with them, and he did an excellent job getting someone from the Oxford Kroger and Memphis regional office to come to our facility,” she said. “Oxford Kroger had a drive for us last semester, as well.”
Store manager Jeff Neal said the Kroger Co. family of stores has a long history of bringing help and hope to the communities served.
“Kroger’s goal is to end hunger in our communities by 2025 and we are working to do just that through our Zero Hunger Zero Waste Initiative,” Neal said. “As a community partner in Oxford, we are proud to support the Ole Miss Student Food Pantry because we want to make sure no one on campus goes hungry.”
The food bank, which is a registered campus organization, is operated by an executive cabinet of students and volunteers. An average 150 active volunteers sign up for weekly shifts.
“Mississippi is often shown to have one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation, and research shows that a significant percentage of college students experience food insecurity at some point during their college careers,” said Lindsey Abernathy associate director of the Office of Sustainability and food bank staff adviser.
“Kroger’s donation will ensure that we can adequately keep the shelves stocked this year, as we continue to work to get the word out to UM students and employees that the Food Bank is here for anyone who needs to use it.”
The Ole Miss Food Bank opened its doors in November 2012. Hours of operation are 2-4 p.m. Sundays; 1-3 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; and 1-6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.
To make a donation to the food bank, check out the list of most-needed items or donate through the UM Foundation, visit the website.
By Edwin Smith