Gleaners, hungry thankful for food


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor


Sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple in most parts of the country.


Thanks to about 40 volunteers, thousands of families in Mississippi will get to enjoy the nutrient-rich food during the holiday.


That’s how many volunteers came to the first Yam Jam sponsored Oct. 10 by the Society of St. Andrew. The volunteers gleaned a sweet potato field near Bellefontaine in Webster County. They gathered 19,000 pounds of sweet potatoes.


“Overall, it was a great, successful event,” said Jessica Burks, who works for the Mississippi Gleaning Network of SoSA in Mathiston. “Everybody that came said they want to come back.”


Society of St. Andrew is a national hunger-fighting organization based in Virginia. Most of its programs involve obtaining and distributing edible food that otherwise would be thrown away.

While the stated goal was 200 volunteers, the 40 who did participate came close to the goal of 20,000 pounds. The workers picked an average of 475 pounds of sweet potatoes each.


Among the volunteers were nine members of Wheeler United Methodist Church – including an elementary school pupil – who drove 95 miles to participate.


“The bishop has been promoting the Society of St. Andrew and doing what we can for people in need,” said the Rev. Jim Hall, pastor of the Wheeler and Meadow Creek UMCs. “As a small congregation, this is something we can go and do. It just takes time and effort and a little bit of gas money, but it’s the kind of mission work you can do without having to be gone two weeks.”


This wasn’t the church’s first time to glean fields. Hall said the church sent five members to a gleaning previously, and they returned with 1,000 pounds of food. Those potatoes went to a food pantry run by a Wheeler Baptist church.


Hall said being able to distribute the food in the local community was meaningful for everyone.

“It means a lot to the people in the church,” he said. “There were a lot of hugs and tears as these potatoes were handed out. Folks were real glad to get them and we’re real blessed to be able to help them a little bit.”


Burks said the 19,000 pounds of potatoes were distributed in Starkville, Eupora, Wheeler, Itta Bena, Greenwood and Kosciusko.


Burks said the success of the Yam Jam leads her to believe it will become an annual event. She said the churches that participated will likely be her best advertisers for next year. “I think now that we’ve had some churches participate, they’ll be able to see how it was and promote it themselves,” she said.


For more information about SoSA or its programs, call Burks at 662-263-8648 or e-mail