For the past six years, the partnership between JSU’s Center for University-Based Development and the Society of St. Andrew has enabled volunteers to distribute more than 20,000 pounds of free sweet potatoes during the annual ‘Crop Drop’ event. This year’s event was quite different for two reasons: 1-a global pandemic caused by Covid-19 and 2-no sweet potatoes. That’s right, there were no sweet potatoes at this year’s event.
JSU’s Executive Director for Community Engagement Dr. Heather Denne’ says, “Today, we were able to give 20,000 pounds of fresh produce to the community for free. The bags consisted of russet potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, cabbage and cantaloupe.”
The event was scheduled to start at seven am but cars were lined along the parkway an hour earlier, anxiously awaiting their share of fresh produce.
“We went ahead and began serving since the bags were already pre-packaged by our volunteers the night before,” says Denne. “So far, we serviced about 200 people.”
University administrators stressed the importance of this year’s event amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
JSU Acting President Thomas Hudson stated, ” This event aligns with our mission as an urban institution. We are located in the middle of the community and in many ways, we have built this community up through Jackson State. We are in a food desert so Crop Drop not only helps provide food but also promotes a healthy lifestyle. Events like this are really important amid a pandemic, and we are happy to be a part of the solution.”
“It is monumental for JSU to have opportunities like this for the individuals in the community during an unprecedented world crisis embedded in a recession,” says Alisa Mosley, provost and vice president for the Division of Academic Affairs. “It is definitely imperative for us to be a part of the voice that is responding to the needs that plague all of us.”
She continued, “We have all been impacted by this terrible pandemic, and we have to be more sensitive about the fact that food scarcity is a real issue in this area. I am proud to be a part of a university that cares about people, and understands that we should always be a part of the solution, and also that we should be invested in doing things for those in which we serve.”
Due to Covid-19, volunteers were decreased from 50 to 15 and boxes were pre-packaged the night before. All volunteers wore gloves, masks and practiced social distancing as a safety precaution.
“I have always loved this event,” says Denne. ” This year, I am especially excited to see and help all of these people because of Covid-19. There are so many people in need and helping them warms my heart.”