Even in a Pandemic, MANNA Maintains a Commitment to Healthy Food for the Wellbeing of Our Community
At MANNA, our mission to end hunger is at the center of everything we do. We know how vital food is to ensuring that our community can live and thrive – food truly is the foundation of health. And as we have evolved our fresh produce and perishable food rescue and distribution operations over the years, we’ve committed to ensuring that the food we help get onto the tables of families across Western North Carolina is also the kind of food that helps supports our health and wellbeing.
The connection between food insecurity and an individual’s health is clear. Chronic illnesses and other food-related health concerns are a troubling reality for many who face ongoing grocery budget constraints. Food insecurity limits a person’s food options, and more often than not, the cheaper, more financially accessible foods are lacking the proper nutrition our bodies need to stay healthy. It’s much more “economical” to buy 6 packs of ramen noodles than it is to buy one pint of blueberries. This is why we are so dedicated to maintaining a balance of health-supporting foods that our partner pantries and mobile markets can provide to folks coming to food distributions.
MANNA’s focus on rescuing and delivering fresh foods, especially nutrient-dense foods, has grown in scope over the years as we continue to build relationships with large-scale food donors, and refine our efficiencies and capacity around handling fresh and perishable foods. This dedication to fresh food capacity extends to our 250+ partner agency network, as well. We’ve partnered with Thermo Fisher Scientific, who donates high-end lab grade refrigeration and freezer equipment, to help support our partners with the capacity to handle fresh food so that they can also safely receive and distribute these nutritious foods to people across the WNC community that we are working hard to source.
But fresh food is just the first step when it comes to ensuring that the most at-risk members of our community have the nutrition they need. Addressing barriers to accessing this food is an important next step in ensuring our community has healthy, nutritious food.
Healthy Food Access:
Nutrition Works, Mobile Programs, and MANNA Packs for Kids
MANNA’s Nutrition Works team has built a strong foundation in three distinct ways: providing on-site healthy cooking demos at food distributions utilizing the fresh produce available that day; building a state-wide training program for Healthy Pantry Partners to support healthy food access with their clients; and a referral program with clinics and other health-focused organizations to provide their patients with “healthy food prescriptions” so that those struggling to afford the foods they need to support their wellbeing can find and access those foods.
Another vital way we are addressing healthy food access is through our Mobile Programs. MANNA Express, a volunteer-driven fresh food delivery, is a connection between MANNA and our existing partner agencies to help provide fresh and perishable foods to their community without a need for the partner (who might have limited storage capacity) to handle or store this delicate product. These deliveries, driven by an incredible team of volunteer drivers, go to a partner on the day of their open distribution with a truck of fresh foods, and help distribute those foods to the community.
MANNA Community Markets are a community owned, volunteer driven mobile pantry distributions that support areas of high need across WNC, also helping to deliver fresh perishables and healthy staples to communities where a larger percentage of people are facing a grocery gap.
MANNA Packs for Kids is a program that provides supplement food packs to over 5,000 students across WNC every week during the school year. These packs include healthy snacks and other kid friendly foods to help support growing children. Summer Packs, the summertime version of this program, provides weekly bags that also include fresh produce, so that when children are away from free school meals during the summer months, they can still have access to healthy foods.
At every turn, our community steps forward to help us ensure we can get not just food, but nutritious foods, to our neighbors and friends across the mountains. Thank you for continuing to walk along side MANNA and our partners to ensure that when a family needs food, they can get food that supports their wellbeing.