Celebrating a year of MANNA Community Markets!
Last year, MANNA officially launched a new program, which sought to hold free food distributions in areas lacking the infrastructure and/or resources to combat the high level of food insecurity in the region. Being that most of Western North Carolina is rural, we were aware that there were many people in need of food assistance who could not reach us…so we worked to reach them.
With the launch of the MANNA Community Market (MCM), we are now able to host pop-up markets across WNC. Within the first few months, MCMs had become visible in every county, while solidly establishing itself as a regular routine destination in eight counties.
“One of the greatest successes of the MCM program has been that the distributions have filled the gap where there weren’t any partner agencies,” says Malarie McGalliard, MANNA’s Mobile Programs Coordinator. “A lot of people who were not able to find food assistance, can now rely upon MCMs to be there for them and their families.”
In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, MCMs distributed over 800,000 pounds of food across Western North Carolina. Since July of this year alone, they have distributed over 450,000 pounds into neighborhoods with a high need for food.
This food support continues at a record pace despite the pandemic becoming a reality months after the launch of the MCM program. As we are all aware, day-to-day operations throughout almost every corner of the world had to change due to public health concerns. For MCMs, that was no different.
Prior to the pandemic, MCMs were set up as a farmer’s market, which allowed clients to choose the food that they were excited to bring home and enjoy with their loved ones. As the pandemic swept through the country, MANNA was forced to re-conceptualize the distributions. To better serve clients safely, MCMs transitioned to a low- to no-contact drive through market. Many communities throughout the mountains of WNC came together and provided masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer so that food distributions could continue and be done in a safe manner.
Throughout this past year, the staff members and volunteers who make the MANNA Community Market a reality have faced incredible challenges while piloting a new program, however, despite these unprecedented times, they have persisted through all of it with their adaptiveness, creativity, and resilience.
As we look to the future, we know that this will be a long road to recovery, but at the end of this, MANNA hopes to see MCMs return to a farmer’s market format that allows clients to choose the food they know their families’ will enjoy. Even now, we know that MCMs will continue to be a resource for community members who are struggling to afford the food they need, and will continue to reach out to those who cannot reach out to us.