Diversity and Community Engagement

The University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘Food Security’

Community Chat – Suzanne Helveston, More than a Meal

Posted on: July 31st, 2020 by elpayseu

“It’s more than just a meal. We want our guests to feel like they’re at a friend’s house coming over for dinner.” -Suzanne Helveston

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by Suzanne Helveston, board president for More Than A Meal. Suzanne discusses the mission of More Than A Meal and the hard work of the community that goes into making meals available for those who need them. Tune in to learn more about how More Than A Meal operates, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally from Meridian, Miss., Suzanne and her husband moved to Oxford, their college hometown, in 2014. She soon became involved with More Than A Meal through her cooking club as a meal provider and was drawn into the atmosphere of the organization. “It was kind of like having a group of friends in your living room,” Suzanne says. After becoming a regular volunteer, she was asked to serve on the board. In fall 2020, she will begin her position as board president.

More Than A Meal is there to provide a hot meal to those in Lafayette County who may not have access to one. For a while, these meals were being hosted in churches and parish halls, but the City of Oxford has recently allowed them to utilize the Stone Center. “[The Stone Center] is a great central location,” Suzanne says, “It’s comfortable and constant.” The Stone Center provides a consistent, central location for guests and makes meals much more efficient, and as the name suggests, it is more than a meal. They provide basic toiletries and paper products to their guests as well as school supplies in early August. They even host a coat drive in November.

Recently, More Than A Meal has been operating a drive-thru system to accommodate COVID-19 health regulations. They also extended their service through the summer as opposed to just during the academic year as they have done in years past. They will reopen on August 11. Suzanne says that one of their biggest challenges, still, is simply bringing awareness to More Than A Meal. “We have a lot of regulars, but there’s room for more,” Suzanne says. They send fliers and use social media to spread awareness, but Suzanne encourages everyone that knows of someone in the community who could use a hot meal to spread the word.

You can learn more about More Than A Meal by going to their Facebook page or their website at mtamoxford.org.


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Community Chat – Mary Leary & Camie Bianco

Posted on: July 16th, 2020 by elpayseu

“There’s definitely a need in our community, even though we may not see it.” -Camie Bianco

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by Camie Bianco and Mary Leary, co-founders and board members of Lovepacks. Lovepacks is a nonprofit organization that provides food on weekends and holidays during the school year for school-aged children in our community who experience hunger. Camie and Mary discuss the mission of the organization as well as some of the greatest challenges and rewards they experience through the work they do.

Camie and Mary founded Lovepacks in 2010 after seeing similar programs in other states and realizing the need for a supplemental program in Oxford. On weekends and holidays, dozens of packages are delivered to hungry students from both the Oxford and Lafayette County School Districts. This is all done with a team of volunteers comprised of special education students who pack the boxes and liaisons who deliver the packs to the children. Camie and Mary both agree that one of the biggest rewards of the organization is working with the student packers whom they regard as the “heart of Lovepacks.”

Since its inception, Lovepacks has experienced immense support from the community either through monetary donations or in-kind donations, and all donations go towards buying food and supplies. However, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization’s board has been faced with the challenge of providing food to students while still retaining anonymity, an important aspect of their service. As they work through this, Lovepacks is still committed to providing food to students and combating hunger in our community.

If you want to get involved with Lovepacks, either through donations or volunteering, you can contact them at lovepacks@gmail.com or through their Facebook page “Oxford Lovepacks.”


Download the full transcript (PDF).

Watch on Youtube.

Listen via podcast on Anchor.