FRESH NEWS October 2020
Monthly News from MANNA FoodBank
A Marathon and a Sprint
As we race everyday to meet the dramatically increased need in our region, it has become both a marathon and a sprint.
Right now, MANNA is simultaneously running a sprint and a marathon. And we have been for half a year now.

Over the past six months, we’ve witnessed the need for food assistance in our region significantly increase. Prior to the pandemic, WNC was already engaged in a unique and difficult struggle with food insecurity. After the economic collapse that followed the beginning of the pandemic, however, the situation only got worse as many lost their jobs and businesses were forced to close.

To meet this increased need, we’ve been working at record levels.
Every day, our operations team is coming in and working overtime to make sure that food can reach every pocket of WNC. Our volunteers and volunteer center staff are working tirelessly to sort and pack food each week that can then be delivered to our partner agencies for distribution. Furthermore, our partner agencies are still seeing an average increase of over 50% in the number of people in need of food compared to their pre-COVID averages.
As we run these daily sprints, we recognize that we are still far from the finish line in this pandemic.

Food insecurity in our region, as previously mentioned, was already a glaring issue in WNC and the pandemic has only made the situation worse. Our region’s road to economic recovery is a lengthy one and there is no way of knowing when we will experience a full economic recovery in all of our 16 counties.

That’s why we’re preparing now so that we can continue to show up for those whose need for food assistance is recent, as well as, those who have needed our assistance prior to this crisis.

In the words of Jennifer Lutz, our Director of Agency Relations, “We really need the community to come together to help us. We need those fresh legs to really finish this marathon out.”

Amidst all of this, we want to extend our depths of gratitude to all who have and are helping make it possible for us to be there for everyone who needs our support across Western North Carolina. We could not do it without you.
Partner Agency Appreciation
As the need for food assistance in our region has increased due to COVID-19, our partner agencies have been the people on the frontlines.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our partner agencies and their volunteers have been on the ground distributing boxes of food by any means necessary. Whether that has meant swiftly transitioning to a low or no-contact distribution or, in some cases, driving food to neighbor’s homes, they’ve done it.

The passion and generosity that partner agencies have demonstrated the past six months has been nothing short of incredible. As Amy Sims, our Eastern Zone Coordinator, points out, “our amazing partners began serving record amounts of people, many of whom had never had to ask for help before. They answered those needs and also distributed record amounts of food, all in the proverbial blink of an eye.”
All of this work comes from a place of kindness and a shared interest in ensuring that their community is cared for, especially during turbulent times.

Paige Christie, the Executive Director of Jackson County’s Community Table, puts it simply. “Every person deserves the dignity of healthy food and hot, home-cooked meals. We serve our community because we love it!”

It is through the dedication of our partner agencies that friends, family members and neighbors throughout all of Western North Carolina have been able to find food assistance and bring food home despite these challenging times. Our partner agencies are truly the hands and feet of MANNA in our communities across Western North Carolina.
Helpline Highlight
At the beginning of the pandemic, MANNA’s Food Helpline experienced an enormous influx of calls. According to our Helpline staff, many callers throughout the first couple months of the pandemic were in an absolute panic. All of a sudden, due to job loss, their income had disappeared. Having never faced food insecurity before, they were in a difficult situation and left not knowing how to apply for SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps).

Calls rang in from a diverse group of people. Younger residents throughout WNC called asking for assistance because they were laid off or furloughed from their jobs. Retirees were also eager for help. Many of whom had lost part time jobs which they’d been using to supplement their monthly retirement funds.

According to Jason Turnbull, MANNA’s Lead FNS Outreach Coordinator, when callers connected with the Helpline and heard a human voice, “many people were relieved just to hear someone on the other end.” Due to the high volume of calls to DHS offices, many people either couldn’t get through to anyone or had to wait on hold for multiple hours just to have the opportunity to apply for SNAP or unemployment benefits.

After the initial relief of connecting with the Helpline, most of the calls began with some sort of trepidation and a sense of not knowing what to expect. For many callers, this was their first time asking for help in this way. By the end of nearly every conversation, however, callers were incredibly grateful and relieved to know that there was the chance of monthly food assistance and were pleased to receive vital information about other local resources.

Though the initial panic of the pandemic has decreased and the volume of calls has dipped slightly, the Helpline is still receiving more calls per day than they were pre-COVID. A large reason for this continued traffic is that WNC was already in a tough spot prior to COVID. The pandemic, however, just accentuated food insecurity in our region. Now, six months into the pandemic, the economy continues to struggle and families are left with the challenge of balancing a loss of income with housing/rental costs, transportation, medical bills and the rising cost of food.

As winter approaches and the uncertainty of the pandemic lingers, MANNA wants people to know that the Helpline is a resource people who need an extra helping hand can access. According to Sandra Precoma, MANNA’s Helpline Coordinator, food insecurity often doesn’t register for people until there is literally no food in the house. SNAP benefits, meanwhile, can take a few weeks to process, which leaves these people in a difficult situation.

“There is still a stigma that food stamps are only for people who are starving, so people wait until they’ve lost their jobs or no longer have food in their house. SNAP, however, is a supplemental food assistance program, which can be accessed by those who are working full time jobs, but still may be in a difficult situation financially." - Sandra Precoma

Whether people are hoping to find a nearby food distribution or are wanting to apply for SNAP benefits, WNC residents are encouraged to call 1-800-820-1109 for assistance.

The MANNA Food Helpline is available from 9 AM - 4 PM, Monday thru Friday.
The 19th Annual Empty Bowls
On Monday, October 5, MANNA held it's 19th Annual Empty Bowls event. But as with all things in 2020, it looked different than before! With a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of community support, this year's Empty Bowls was transformed into Empty Bowls To-Go, a sold-out, drive-thru event where ticket holders could safely stay in their cars while still supporting MANNA.

Drive-thru guests received a beautiful pottery bowl donated by a local artist, a bag of Roots & Branches dried soup mix to make at home, and exclusive recipe cards from some of our beloved Culinary Partners. Even the kids had a chance to participate, with almost 100 junior-sized packages sold, each holding a special kids' bowl, and coloring pages from local artist Stu Helm.
Through the collective generosity of time and talent -- from our artisan friends who donated 800+ stunning pottery bowls, to our hard-working Empty Bowls volunteers, to the hospitality of our host venue, DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore -- MANNA will be able to provide over 128,000 meals for our neighbors in Western North Carolina experiencing hunger and food insecurity. That's something we can all take pride in!

We send our deepest gratitude to our Empty Bowls supporters, and look forward to the time when we can be together again.
Impact Report
Since the beginning of March, MANNA has been working at record levels.

In the past six months, we have provided food for an average of 99,000 people each month. This is an average increase of over 50% compared to our pre-pandemic numbers.

Our Helpline has received calls from over 4,600 households, which is a 34% increase in calls. We have also distributed 12.8 million pounds of food since March 1st, which is 35% increase of the total pounds of food distributed last year throughout the same months.
Hotels Continue to Lend a Helping Hand
Even though, Sweet Dreams/Full Plates couldn’t happen this year our wonderful hotel partners Biltmore Farms, Asheville Hotel Group and others are rolling up their sleeves to help us pack food for our communities.

We are extremely grateful for the incredible, abiding partnership that we have with our local hotel community. We look forward to the day when Sweet Dreams/Full Plates can happen again, while we continue to celebrate the tens of thousands of meals they have provided through their extraordinary Sweet Dreams/Full Plates campaign. 
Closing on Hunger
This October, MANNA and LOTSAR (Land of the Sky Association of Realtors) are launching the first ever Closing on Hunger campaign. MANNA is excited to be partnering with the real estate community to help further our work across WNC.

For every house closing a participating REALTOR™ has in the month of October, they will make a $100 (400 meals) donation to MANNA on behalf of their client in lieu of the traditional closing gift. The campaign will welcome new homeowners to the area in a philanthropic spirit and educate the new homeowners on the work MANNA is doing in the community.

“MANNA and our 240+ nonprofit partners in their food distribution network are seeing the highest need for food in the organization’s history,” says Olivia Onderlinde, Corporate Relations Manager for MANNA. “This campaign truly couldn’t come at a better time for the thousands of households who need food right now.”

If anyone has questions about this campaign or works in the real estate industry and would like to get involved, please contact Olivia Onderlinde.
We'd like to thank the following Foundations for their continued support:
  • National Council on Aging
  • TD Charitable Foundation
  • The Henri Landwirth Family Endowed Fund
  • Duke Energy Foundation
  • Western North Carolina Medical Society
  • BlueCross BlueShield Foundation of North Carolina
Omni Grove Park Inn
On October 7th, Omni Grove Park Inn hosted a canned food drive as part of the Here Comes Omni Road Ready Tour. The Omni Executive Team is currently driving over 5,000 miles to various Omni properties throughout the country, while giving back to the community. Throughout the trip, they are sponsoring different local food donation drives and donating 10 meals per mile to Feeding America! 

We are incredibly grateful for the support of Omni. Between Here Comes Omni and their Say Goodnight to Hunger campaign, which has provided thousands of meals since 2016, they’ve been steadfast supporters of our mission. 
We want to thank all of you who have joined us in rising to meet the unprecedented challenges we have faced throughout the course of this pandemic.

We are deeply grateful that we have come this far together and are confident that if we all continue to do what we can, we will be able to serve all those who will turn to us on the long road ahead.

Involve, Educate, and UNITE
MANNA FoodBank remains strongly committed to standing alongside all those united in seeking positive change, equity, and justice for all. 
Your Voice Matters:
Advocate for those experiencing poverty.

MANNA's mission is to involve, educate, and unite people in the work of ending hunger, and an important part of this mission is advocating for those living in and experiencing the effects of poverty.

As a non-partisan organization, dedicated to sharing information about the issues affecting the people we serve together, MANNA does not endorse political parties or candidates. We simply ask people to work with our elected officials to make legislation that works for us all, and makes our region, our state, and our country stronger from the ground up.

If you are interested in receiving advocacy-related emails from MANNA FoodBank, please click the button below. By clicking here, you are signing up to receive information from MANNA about ways you can use your voice, and actions you can take, to help work towards our vision of a hunger-free Western North Carolina.
Give. Volunteer. Advocate.