Just a mile down the road from the campus of the University of Mississippi is the Stone Center, a small building that houses an organization with a big heart. Perched atop a tiny hill overlooking Stone Park off of Washington Avenue in Oxford, the More Than a Meal organization dedicates its services to those in need in the Oxford community.
The official mission of MTAM is “to serve the people of Oxford with good food, encouragement, and a sense of community. A warm meal, fellowship, tutoring for children, and much, much more,” according to the organization’s website.
The non-profit is run by volunteers, who often serve in groups representing various churches around the area. According the MTAM, groups who sign up to serve are asked to prepare a “nutritious, well-balanced meal for around 120 people.”
Sarah McLellan, a secretary on the MTAM board, said the prestige surrounding Oxford’s prosperous community often looms over those who live near or below the poverty line.
“I think that a lot of people here in Oxford think that the community is rich and affluent, and don’t realize that we have so many in need in Oxford,” she said.
McLellan said the organization is necessary for lower income individuals and families to have a healthy meal, and to keep them updated on what’s happening within the community.
MTAM provides a hot meal every Tuesday night at 5 p.m. during the school year. But as the organization’s name suggests, it offers more than just a meal. The non-profit’s various services include tutoring for children, flu shots, blood pressure checks, literary services, to-go meals and much more, according to McLellan.
McLellan stressed the importance of a service organization within Oxford, deeming it beneficial to those the organization serves and her personally.
“It is very rewarding for this community, and it’s rewarding for me,” she said. “I’ve formed friendships with our guests that come back every week.”
The effects of the MTAM organization prove to McLellan the necessity of helping those living below the poverty line. “Our community needs this. Maybe even more than once a week,” she said.
Elder Roy Evans, who volunteers at MTAM, said taking time to help those in need is necessary in every community.
“There’s people out there that really need our help,” he said. “It’s a responsibility. We should be able to help one another.”
Evans, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said More Than a Meal is perfect way to offer community service and get to know those the community often forgets about.
“As missionaries, we love to come and help out anyway that we can,” he said. “This is a good opportunity to serve the community, especially in a one-on-one basis. You’re able to talk with them and really get to know them.”
Evans credits MTAM for giving people that chance to serve, which is something that is not as accessible everywhere else.
“(MTAM) is awesome. People from different organizations just come and help out and are able to serve the people,” he said.
For college students, it is often eye-opening to wander outside of your comfort zone.
Chris Rogers, a junior philosophy major at the University of Mississippi, has volunteered at MTAM and believes the act of service itself is beneficial to the college experience.
“It’s beneficial for me to serve while in college because it gets me outside of myself,” he said. “It’s so easy to become egocentric and focus on myself and only what I want to do. Service makes me more grateful for the blessings and gifts I have, as well as the opportunity to educate myself and to afford three meals a day.”
Rogers said service allows one to learn about the suffering and pain of others.
“Service has made me more self-sacrificing and compassionate,” he said. “It has showed me the world outside my safe little bubble.”
More Than a Meal is located inside the Stone Center at 423 Washington Avenue in Oxford. For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.mtamoxford.org.