Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Community Chat – John Kohne, The Pantry

“There’s a need, and I want to foster that need.” -John Kohne

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by John Kohne from The Pantry to discuss the ever present need of supplemental food in the LOU community. John discusses the processes and needs of The Pantry that provides some of this supplement to those in need. Tune in to learn more about The Pantry and what they’re doing to alleviate food insecurity here in Lafayette County.

Growing up in a Catholic church in St. Louis, Missouri, John Kohne gained a heart for community involvement early on in his childhood. After retiring from the Navy and working as a FedEx pilot, he moved to Oxford to be close to family where he quickly got plugged into the community through his church congregation. He began volunteering with The Pantry in 2012 and quickly fell into the process.

Run mostly by church congregations, The Pantry operates through two processes: screening and shopping. The screening process determines exactly what the needs are of individual clients, and then they are able to walk through and shop for what they need. In order to dignify the process, clients are able to actually walk through with a cart and shop for what they need instead of simply providing them with a box of predetermined goods. John harps on the compassion shown by everyone involved in running The Pantry. “This is a caring community,” John says. He is thankful, as well, to university students who come and are always excited to help and make a difference in the community.

The greatest rewards, according to John, come from seeing how the members of the community can work together to ease the burden of food insecurity and from coming in contact with people who have the same heart for service as he does. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed how these processes unfold. Churches must mitigate how they distribute food. Also, the food they receive from Mid-South Food Network and the MS Food Network begins to dwindle shortly into the year, especially considering how the pandemic has increased food insecurity. While The Pantry will accept food donations, John cautions community members in how they collect this food. He suggests following safety protocols  by collecting from your own pantry and not organizing a large food drive. You can still help while also keeping yourself and others safe.

The Pantry operates once a month, two days out of the week. To get involved, contact them at (662)832-8001. Also, be sure to watch this episode on our Facebook, Youtube, or on your favorite podcast provider.