OXFORD, Miss. – Just because the Ole Miss Food Bank's doors are closed doesn't mean that food isn't being distributed at the University of Mississippi. Last week, students took home more than 930 pounds of food, an amount comparable to a semester's worth of food distribution under normal conditions.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Food Bank is officially closed to shoppers, but volunteers are preparing grab-and-go bags to leave in the second-floor hallway of Kinard Hall, outside the Food Bank's doors.
"We're trying to maintain access to the food bank as much as possible while still creating a safe and healthy environment," said Kate Forster, director of advocacy for UMatter in the Division of Student Affairs. "We can't be up there to have open hours because of social distancing, so we've decided to transition to this grab-and-go method."
The Ole Miss Food Bank is a student-run organization, but since most students are practicing social distancing in their hometowns, Forster is helping ensure that students in need still have access to food.
The doors at Kinard Hall remain unlocked 24/7, so students have access to the grab-and-go bags whenever they need.
"A lot of students have lost jobs, wages or tips and don't have the money to make ends meet," Forster said. "This is one piece of their financial puzzle we can take off their plate."
Oxford Church of Christ donated ready-made meal bags March 23 that included pizza, Mexican and breakfast meal kits as well as snack bags. The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts also donated its concession items that won't be used this semester.
Anyone who wants to help meet students' need for food can prepare meal kits in grocery bags that are easy for students to grab without much contact and leave them outside the Food Bank door in Kinard Hall, Forster said. These can include pasta and pasta sauce, canned beans, macaroni and cheese, vegetarian items, coconut milk and curry paste, as well as pantry staples such as canned tuna, flour and oil.
"Think like a college student," Forster said. "What's easy to make? Oatmeal, granola bars, rice, canned ravioli, ramen."
Personal and feminine hygiene items are also in high demand.
Anyone interested in helping can also do so without leaving home by giving to the Food Bank through an Ignite Ole Miss campaign.