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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Extra Table

August 4, 2010

Mississippi is moving up. For too long Mississippi has been last in the good categories and first in the bad categories. A few years ago, we topped the list in food insecurity. That’s definitely a bad one. No more.

Today, Mississippi is No. 6. Granted, that’s still near the bottom, but it’s not the bottom. It’s progress.

Food insecurity refers to the number of people who are not getting enough food to lead a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard to believe people in our state go to bed hungry at night. More than 22 percent of Mississippians are what the USDA calls “food insecure.” That statistic includes more than 150,000 children.

Every day, there are too many children in Mississippi who eat a school breakfast, a school lunch, and then don’t eat again until the next day. This is not in some third-world country on some faraway continent. This is right here in America, in Mississippi, in our front yard.

To be honest, I used to be pretty apathetic about this issue. I assumed that if someone wanted to eat, all they had to do was get a job. What I learned was that there are single working moms who are holding down two jobs, trying to make ends meet, and scraping by just to purchase groceries. There are seniors living on Social Security trying to decide whether to pay the electric bill or buy food.

Soup kitchens and mission pantries across the state are hurting for food. Since the economy tanked, the need for food at these facilities has increased by more than 20 percent. They need help, desperately.

Extra Table is an organization that has partnered with the nation’s largest food service distributor, Sysco, to help supply healthy food to 17 Mississippi soup kitchens and mission pantries. It’s an easy, foolproof system. Food is purchased and Sysco delivers it directly to the agency. The products are all healthy, shelf-stable foodstuffs – low-fat proteins, low-sugar fruits and healthful grains.

What started as a charity to help restaurants give back has turned in to an easy and simple vehicle for other businesses and individuals to give. Through charitable funds established at The Greater Pine Belt Community Foundation in Hattiesburg ( and The Community Foundation of Greater Jackson (, anyone, any business, any church, or any individual can help feed the state’s needy children through the Extra Table program. All donations go to purchase food.

Extra Table is proof that a little goes a long way. At the Edwards Street Fellowship Center in Hattiesburg, just four Extra Table food bundles given monthly for a year accounts for 50 percent of its annual food budget.

So, here’s my plea: If you are a restaurant owner or manager, you can make sure that the meals you are selling are helping to put food on the table of a needy Mississippi family.

If you are a church member, and your congregation is passionate about feeding the needy, there is now an easy way to help supply mission pantries.
If you are a bank, an insurance company or a law firm, or even if you are just a concerned citizen, you can make a huge difference in the lives of children – here at home- today.

Go to to find out how easy it is to give back.

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