Manna Provides Produce and More for Neighbors in Need

The Manna Food Project provides food for friends and neighbors in need throughout Antrim, Charlevoix, and Emmet counties.  Through a collaboration with Feeding America West Michigan, Manna has grown to serve as a food bank for the area, with more than 37 partner pantries that benefit from quality food at the lowest price.  Manna also “rescues” nearly 600,000 pounds of food each year and offers weekend food for children in need through partnerships with local schools.

Even a sophisticated organization like Manna faces challenges.  Fresh produce is difficult to distribute through partner pantries because of the short shelf life.  A new program titled “Produce for People” has been implemented in several phases to help offer fresh, nutritious food through pantries.

The most recent Community Foundation grant to Manna included an education component, with handouts on preparing and storing fresh produce, recipes, cooking classes that taught food prep skills, and even crockpots for participants to bring home.  One participant who brought her daughter to the class said, “We can hardly wait to go home to use our Crock-Pot. Thank you!”. And at each class, when participants tasted the “Harvest Vegetable Chili recipe that was prepared, we heard over and over again something like this: ‘I never, ever thought I would like the taste of kale!’”

Remaining dollars helped pantries display fresh produce in a more appealing way.  Manna provided several ‘before and after’ photos to show the difference in the displays.  More recent grants in support of the “Produce for People” program provided dollars for Manna to purchase fruits and vegetables in advance from area farms, helping both local farmers and families.  According to a survey taken by those families, this effort is meeting a true need: 49% of respondents have skipped a meal or ate less than they wanted in the last 30 days because of food insecurity.  When families visit Manna or one of their partner pantries, money they save can be used for other priorities, including utilities (70%), healthcare (10%), and childcare (10%).