Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer
The Robert C. Carpenter Community Center was host to a free food giveaway last Monday. Residents were able to line up at 2 p.m. to get free food. This food drive was sponsored by MANNA. MANNA Food Bank is a private, not-for-profit service organization, that links the food industry with more than 200 partner agencies in 16 counties of WNC. MANNA is an acronym and stands for Mountain Area Nutritional Needs Alliance. MANNA is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, according to its website at mannafoodbank.org.
Macon Program for Progress (MPP) personnel and several other volunteers, were on hand to help unload the food truck, set up the tables and distribute the food. Last month a trial food drive was held for approximately 100 people. Invitations went out and that drive was successful, so it was decided to open it up to the public the following month.
Items that were available included fresh fruits and vegetable, juices, crackers, organic items, cookies, yogurt, croissants, and cakes. Those who showed up were allowed to take whatever they needed from the tables, no questions asked. The packages were not broken down and residents were allowed to take six packs of drinks, large boxes of croissants and whole sheet cakes. If anyone did not bring a bag to carry the food, canvass totes and boxes were supplied for them.
Mannafoodbank.org offers more information about the organization. MANNA Food Bank was founded in 1982 by the Hunger Awareness Group in Asheville. Food distribution began in 1983 from donated space in the basement of Eliada Home for Children. The following year, MANNA distributed 42,000 pounds of food to 16 agencies. Now, MANNA distributes more than 42,000 pounds of food every day of the year. The founders of MANNA Food Bank had a clear vision: that the people of Western North Carolina can go to work or look for work, go to school, play, worship, and sleep without the burden of hunger, says mannafoodbank.org.
The MANNA Packs for Kids program provides emergency food assistance to public school students throughout all 16 counties in their service area, who receive free school meals. MANNA works closely with WNC schools to identify at-risk student populations. In the 2017/2018, MANNA provided an average of 5,187 MANNA Packs every week of the school year to children across WNC.
Food insecurity is a widespread problem in WNC and Franklin has its share also. Food insecurity is defined as people living in a household who do not always know where they will find their next meal. By contrast, food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Statistics show that in 2017, 25.8% of children were living in food insecure homes in Macon County.
Mary Pullman was among the volunteers who helped with the food drive on Monday. Pullman works at Ingles and lives with her son, Joshua Barrs, who was also volunteering. Pullman was at last month’s food giveaway as a volunteer and felt that it was a great program which should be expanded.
“It is a good idea, families sometimes get behind and it gives people hope,” said Pullman.
“This is great. It benefits those who can’t pay for groceries,” Joshua Barrs remarked.
“Although this drive was good, it wasn’t enough. Maybe next time there will be more,” said volunteer Anthony Barrett.
Felicia Roberts, Family and Communications Outreach Specialist at MPP explained that MPP partners with MANNA and CareNet help get food to those who need it most. Roberts works closely with Amy Sims, Western Zone Outreach Coordinator of MANNA Food Bank.
This food drive on Monday served 390 individuals which represented 146 families. Roberts says that next month they will be doubling the amount of food, in order to accommodate the rising need. The hope is to hold a food drive every month here in Macon County.
Donations are always accepted. Contact Amy Sims at 828-399-1147 to find out how you can help. The Toll Free help line for MANNA is 1-800-820-1109 or firstname.lastname@example.org. MANNA Food Bank is located in Asheville at 627 Swannanoa River Road.