To sit down with Michael Dixon, executive director of Extra Table, is to experience a whirlwind journey into a world of needs being met and hungry people being fed. As head of the ministry set up by Mississippi restaurateur and author Robert St. John, Dixon oversees a process designed to deliver nourishing food to those in need.
When a food pantry in St. John’s hometown of Hattiesburg contacted him in 2009 for help stocking empty shelves, the businessman went beyond a simple cash donation. He set up a food drop by his own supplier, Sysco. Since then, he has put together a program which stretches donations to the maximum and ensures the food delivered will be good for the recipients.
Dixon officially began with Extra Table about two years.
“What I really like about Extra Table is, it doesn’t reinvent any wheels that don’t need to be reinvented,” he says. “It utilizes existing systems.” He praises Sysco’s ability to gather and deliver food, and the various feeding agencies for their ability to get the food into the hands of those who need it. “We’re not creating our own agencies. We’re just connecting those two and raising the funds to get the food.”
With more the 679,000 people in Mississippi in a “food insecure” situation and some of the highest levels of obesity and obesity-related illnesses in the nation, the state’s need for healthy foodstuffs reaches mountainous proportions. Extra Table offers a solution to both the lack of food supply and the need for balanced, healthy diets.
Extra Table operates with a 100% guarantee: every penny raised for food goes for food in the community where the money was raised, if there is an Extra Table partner there. Undesignated donations go to the communities where need exceeds donations. Operating expenses are minimal. Two employees – Dixon and Program Coordinator Stacy Ahua – are paid from special fundraisers clearly identified as raising operating funds. They work in space set aside within St. John’s corporate office space in Hattiesburg. A volunteer Board of Directors helps direct the organization.
The program operates in 21 communities at present and expands by several communities each year. The next expansion is the Tupelo-Oxford-Starkville areas. Plans for the launch of services include a kick-off fundraiser featuring singer/songwriter Mac McAnally and several members of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.
Interested organizations can find information on applying for participation in Extra Table here. Once all of the 82 counties in Mississippi has been organized, look for Extra Table to expand to other states.