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STARKVILLE, Miss. — Organizers of the recent “United We Feed” community food drive report that more than a ton of food was donated by people across the community to help restock multiple local food pantries.

Sponsored by the United Way of North Central Mississippi, the Maroon Volunteer Center at Mississippi State University and Volunteer Starkville, the “United We Feed” initiative generated more than 2,600 pounds of canned and prepackaged food from Feb. 9 to 23.

“United We Feed” was aimed at helping to restock local food pantries operating in Starkville and Oktibbeha County in conjunction with the “Million Meals Challenge” being conducted across the state through the Mississippi Food Network. The “Million Meals Challenge” ends Feb. 28.

During the “United We Feed” project, enough food to provide 2,626 meals to hungry families was collected, said United Way Executive Director Nikki Rives.

Much of the food collected has already been distributed to local food pantries, and the remainder will be distributed this week, Rives said.

All money donated to the United Way for “United We Feed” will also be split evenly among the food pantries for use in purchasing additional food when needed, Rives said.

“This was the first in what we plan to make an annual project at the beginning of each year following the Christmas holidays,” said Rives. “We are grateful to the wonderful people in our community who made food donations and gave money to support this effort.”

“We are especially grateful to those MSU students and individuals who donated their time to volunteer at the collection points during the food drive and the others who helped coordinate collections at various sites around the community,” Rives added.

Also serving as local partners in the project are Synergetics DCS, Kroger, Walmart and Piggly Wiggly. Synergetics donated office space for use as a clearinghouse to sort and inventory all the donated food for distribution to the food pantries.

Special collection days were held at the Kroger and Walmart stores in Starkville on Feb. 9, 16 and 23. Piggly Wiggly also donated several dozen bags of food collected during a holiday season food drive at the store toward the United We Feed effort.

“The success of this project would not have been possible without Synergetics, Kroger, Walmart and Piggly Wiggly, and we appreciate their participation immensely,” said Rives. “Synergetics, in particular, was especially gracious in allowing us use of the office space as a clearinghouse for all the food that was collected.”

Multiple collection points around the community also accepted donations of food on weekdays, including the Synergetics DCS offices at 501 Highway 12 West, Cadence Bank on University Drive, the M&F Bank branches on University Drive and Highway 12, the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District offices on Miley Road and at the Sitel Call Center on Research Boulevard in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park.

Also participating in the drive were the Mississippi State chapters of Delta Delta Delta sorority and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

Multiple Starkville neighborhoods were targeted by the Maroon Volunteer Center and Volunteer Starkville for donations during the “United We Feed” drive. Donation bags with information about the “United We Feed” initiative were delivered to every home in the selected neighborhoods last week, with pickup of the donated food by volunteers taking place Feb. 20.

“The intention from the beginning was for ‘United We Feed’ to be a community-wide project, and that is what it became,” said Rives. “We at the United Way hope to partner with other organizations in our community for other service projects throughout the year.”

For more information about the United Way and volunteer opportunities, call the office at 323-3830 or e-mail Rives at nrrives@gmail.com. Regular updates about United Way activities can be found by “liking” the organization’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/UnitedWayOfNorthCentralMississippi.

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