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Robert St. John

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

The Extra Table Christmas Challenge

December 6, 2010

I can’t remember the last time I had to skip a meal because I couldn’t afford to buy food. In my past there were times when I was counting-change-in-the-sofa-cushions broke, but even then, I don’t know if I was ever in a situation where I needed a meal and wasn’t able to feed myself. That’s not the case with a lot of people in Mississippi.

Over 70% of Mississippi’s elementary and secondary schoolchildren qualify for free and reduced lunches. Way too many Mississippi children are eating a school breakfast, eating a school lunch and not eating again until the next morning. More than half a million of our state’s citizens are living below the poverty level and are having a hard time putting food on the table.

There are far too many kids in Mississippi who aren’t worried about what Santa is going to bring them this year; they just want their next meal. There are too many parents who aren’t even thinking about making a list for presents and gifts; they are trying to make a decision between paying the electricity bill and buying groceries.

Over 31% of Mississippi children live below the poverty line. Yet the most staggering statistic of all is that there are 8,525 homeless children who attend public schools in Mississippi.

It’s a problem that you can do something about. You can make a real difference this holiday season. Make a deal with your spouse or significant other to take the Extra Table Christmas Challenge.

Take 50% of the gift money you were going to spend on each other and use it to feed families in your area. Who needs another ugly necktie? She can do without a new toaster— The broiler function on the oven works better, anyway.

It’s easy and it’s effective. To take the Extra Table Christmas Challenge, just make a donation to The Greater Pine Belt Community Foundation ( 601-583-6180), or The Community Foundation of Greater Jackson ( 601-974-6044) in the name of Extra Table, and they’ll make sure that a bundle of healthy food is delivered to the local food bank in your area before Christmas.

If you regularly frequent a local restaurant, encourage that restaurant to give back to the needy in their community by giving a monthly contribution to Extra Table. It’s easy for restaurants because Sysco of Jackson, the nation’s largest foodservice distributor, will add it to their bill and make the delivery for them.

Get together with your Sunday school class, your reading group, your supper club, and make a one-time donation to The Greater Pine Belt Community Foundation, or The Community Foundation of Greater Jackson in the name of Extra Table.

The food is needed now. December is crunch time for these agencies, but needy people will still be hungry in January and February. Kids will still need to eat in July. Extra Table will be delivering food throughout the year.

To see the food packages that are available, or to learn more, go to and know that 100% of donations to Extra Table go to purchase food for the needy.

Some of us are overly blessed. I have way more than I deserve, that is why my wife and I are taking the Extra Table Christmas Challenge. I hope you will too. What you and I are likely to learn is that the most rewarding gift you will receive this year is giving food to a needy child in our own backyard.

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