Community Thanksgiving raises awareness of local hunger

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A community Thanksgiving service in support of Breadbasket Ministry was hosted at Parkway Heights United Methodist Church Nov. 18.

Breadbasket Ministry is a food ministry started at Westminster Presbyterian Church that provides food for more than 2,000 people each year. Multiple churches are involved with Breadbasket and host Breadbasket annually on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Southern Miss professor Gregory Fuller is the music director for the traditional service at Parkway Heights and directed the choir for the evening service.

“Tonight is an event that has been occurring for at least 20 years,” Fuller said. “It is an event tied to an organization called Breadbasket. A breadbasket is a group of downtown churches and synagogues that come together to bring food to people that are hungry and raise awareness to the problem.”

More than 150 Southern Miss students and community members sang in the choir, according to Jennifer Case. Participating in the choir were students from Southern Miss’ Southern Chorale, Concert Choir, Southern Miss Men’s Choir, Women’s Chorus and Hattiesburg Choral Union.

Senior music education major Arianna Chaisson said the choir worked hard to prepare for the performance.

“I’m really excited,” Chaisson said. “We have been practicing since the end of October because most of the songs are in our Christmas Spectacular that we do, but two of them we got recently.”

Fuller said this is the third time Southern Miss students have participated in Breadbasket. He said inviting students is important to raising awareness of hunger in the Hattiesburg community, specifically on the Southern Miss campus.

“I work here at Parkway Heights, and so when we come here, I try to bring the university students because there is also a hunger problem on our campus,” Fuller said. “We have a wonderful outlet over there called Eagle’s Nest that helps with that. We are trying to get students into the community, and it seems to me an interface service like this is a great opportunity to bring students and community together for the same purpose.”

In a 2016 study from Feeding America, one in five people in Mississippi struggle with hunger, and one in four children struggle. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Mississippi provides assistance such as food stamps to those going through hard times. Forty-seven percent of households receiving SNAP have children.

Community members can help with the hunger problem in Mississippi by volunteering or donating to local food banks. A few local food banks in Hattiesburg include Eagle’s Nest, Christian Services, Life Support Cares and the Salvation Army. Residents can also bring non-perishable food items to local churches such as Parkway Heights United Methodist Church located on Hardy Street.