March of the Mayors food drive ends with huge packing party

This is the third year for the March of the Mayors on the Coast. The title sponsor of the food drive was Hancock Whitney.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 4:50 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The Extra Table’s third annual March of the Mayors packing process has machine-like precision with heartfelt intent.

“Y’all have Mardi Gras, it wraps up and we keep that spirit going; that spirit of giving; that spirit that will feed those hungry, those food insecure across the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Martha Allen, executive director of Extra Table.

Food was collected for four weeks in 11 different cities.

On Thursday, hundreds of volunteers loaded boxes of non-perishable food items that will go directly to 14 food pantries along the Coast to fight hunger.

“This is a great way for us to try to combat that in a small effort,” said Lauren Santa Cruz of Hancock Whitney, the title sponsor of the food drive. “It takes one month to gather this food and put it all together, and it makes a huge impact in our community.”

On this day, the “One Coast” concept lives, even among young people like Griffin Duval, president of the Mayor’s Youth Council in Gulfport.

“It’s better to work as a big group than individuals to help our community and, like, better ourselves,” he said.

Melissa Morel helps to coordinate volunteer efforts for Mississippi Power.

“We represent the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast,” she said. “And if we don’t work together as one voice, one community, we actually stand apart.”

Each city collected specific items to donate, and the mayors who did their part to promote the event were impressed and inspired by the turnout.

“It’s a great thing - giving back,” said Pass Christian Mayor Jimmy Rafferty. “We’ve had five different collections for corn, and it’s amazing how the community came together.”

This was Waveland Mayor Jay Trapani’s first time participating.

“It’s just amazing to see the generosity of the people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me. Like you said, this is my first time out there and it’s mind-blowing.”

Long Beach Mayor George Bass said while the group effort was tremendous, so will be the beneficiaries.

“The other side to that coin is the families that’s going to be receiving this. That’s what it’s all about and where it’s at and our citizens know the end results of their gift,” he said.

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