The Feed

Stories of Feeding God's Children Hungry in Body & Spirit

Feeding Spirits in Mississippi

Feeding Spirits in Mississippi

Ellen is an event planner at Feed My Starving Children. Here, she shares her reflections from a recent MobilePack event she helped plan. 

A group of inmates and staff at the Marshall County Correctional Facility began to dream about hosting their own MobilePack™ event after being inspired by a guest speaker in their restorative justice class who spoke about his involvement with Feed My Starving Children.

On March 20, after months of planning and fundraising, this dream became a reality.

The packing itself took place in the facility’s visitation room. Like you see on TV, there were phone stations separated by a glass wall for inmates with higher security. However, the open space for face-to-face meetings was unlike anything I had ever imagined inside of a prison.

There were beautiful cartoon murals coloring the white washed walls. There were banners hung all throughout the space welcoming the FMSC staff and Ole Miss Students, thanking sponsors and inspiring the volunteers with information about FMSC and the MobilePack.

Like Going to Disney World 

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But the most amazing part of the room was the group of 15 hardworking men in striped pants and matching T-shirts sitting in the middle of the space. These men, and about a hundred other people, were our food-packing volunteers.

With time to spare before the trailer was ready for unload, the FMSC team began to talk to the inmates about what this event meant to them.

One man, with a glimmer in his eye explained what it meant to them. “I’ve been up since 2 a.m.,” he said excitedly. “You know how kids can’t sleep the night before they go to Disney World? Well, that’s how I felt all night. I just couldn’t sleep!”

If any of the men were tired because of lack of sleep, they sure didn’t show it.

From the second the trailer doors opened to the time that they closed, these inmates poured hearts (and sweat!) into the MobilePack.

They effortlessly made an assembly line to unload more than 14,000 pounds of rice totes into the warehousing space. They built comradery among their peers as chants resounded in the room when a station finished packing a box of food. They lined up to hand carry six pallets of finished product to be loaded into the trailer on the other side of the compound.

These men worked hard to pack 101,088 meals in only five hours.

When we walked into the facility, we expected to meet offenders. And when we walked in, that’s exactly what we found.

We saw men, young and old, wearing striped pants and the word “Convict” branded onto the backs of their shirts.

More than Their Mistakes

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However, as the day progressed, things began to change. Through conversations over a simple hot dog lunch in the mess hall, working side by side to pack food into MannaPack bags and sharing stories of loss, hope and redemption, we began to see these men as more than their mistakes.

We met wonderful artists, passionate fathers, remorseful husbands and one Vampire fantasy author. We taught some what selfies were and prayed with them for direction for their futures. We found men with hopes and dreams, even if they were never going to step foot out of MCCF again.

This MobilePack did more than feed kids, it also fed spirits.

A man from within the facility donated the only $5 that he had to his name in order to be a part of something bigger than himself.

Students from Ole Miss worked side by side with neighbors whom they had never had the opportunity to meet. Offenders were given the gift of excitement, with some not having experienced this since a trip to Disney World in their youth. Four Midwestern FMSC employees left the south with eyes opened and hearts full. All in all, I would call that a pretty successful MobilePack.

Editor’s note: All inmates signed photo release waivers. The photos in this article were taken by FMSC and MCCF staff members.

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