Hands and feet of Christ: Jackson Street MB Church hosts food pantry

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, July 2, 2024

James Doss stood in the searing sun, cheerfully singing “Bring it on down! Ease on down the road!” as he motioned cars to move into place to receive their box of food at Jackson St. Missionary Baptist Church. The line of cars wound around the block and down to St. Aloysius High School on Grove Street.

Every fourth Saturday of the month, the church hosts a food and clothing giveaway. Most of the food is provided by Mississippi Food Network (MFN). Clothing comes from donations.

The historic Jackson Street MB Church, the host site for the giveaway, was organized in 1898. The current church building was completed in 1908. The funeral scene in “Mississippi Burning,” a movie released in 1988, was filmed inside the church.

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Fred Davis heads up the Saturday program, and has been a member there his entire life.

“We’ve been doing this since 2017,” Davis said. 

Prior to that, food handouts were provided to a small group of people, but many at the church wanted to expand the food donations to reach more people. That’s when the church connected with MFN.

Davis explained how the process works.

Before anyone can get a box of food, they must fill out an application. Davis noted that anyone on an assistance program, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), automatically qualifies. The applications are kept on file at the church and periodically audited by MFN.

“We serve, on average, 360-400 families,” Davis said of a typical Saturday pantry. “It’s grown, magnificently. It’s gotten big.”

Maurice L. Davis, Sr., Ky Brooks and Ryan Campbell handle the verification process as people line up to receive food. Campbell keeps a master list of approved parties. Once the people in the car are located on the list, Brooks fills out a card with the number of boxes that car will receive and gives it to the driver. When the car reaches the distribution point, the card is given back to the volunteers who load the number of boxes noted on the card into the car.

The boxes are purchased and assembled by the church. Most of the food comes through MFN, but occasionally the church buys food to supplement the boxes.

“We handle picking up the food in Jackson, at the warehouse,” Davis said.

Because they are an authorized distribution center for MFN, the church undergoes annual inspections of the areas food is kept in, including checking the temperatures on the freezers and refrigerators.

Davis also had to take a course in food safety. 

“I have a valid ‘safe serve’ certificate,” he said.

He routinely checks the freezers to make sure the temperature is set correctly.

During the holiday season, the church also gives special vouchers for purchasing food. 

“We got a grant, and we give everybody a voucher,” Davis said. 

Most families will reserve the voucher for a special item, such as a turkey or ham, he added.

Davis explained he fills out reports for MFN regularly. 

“They want to know how many families we served. There was a time we’d run out of stuff.” 

Based on his reports, future food supplies through MFN can be adjusted for increases or decreases in demand.

“In seven years, we’ve distributed about 800,000 pounds of food,” Davis estimated.

Underneath a tent just across the street from the church, there is a free clothing distribution point.

Gloria Dorsey heads up the clothing ministry. She explained the clothing comes from donations. 

“They are slightly used clothes, but they’re real nice,” she said. “This city has people living down in the woods, off Washington Street I see these people. This is free. All of this.”  

By continuing these ministries, Davis said the church strives to be the hands and feet of Christ by observing the need in this community and giving away what they can. The next scheduled distribution is set for Saturday, July 27.

For more information about making or receiving a donation, calls may be directed to the church office at 601-634-6535.