The incredible work of Partner Agencies over this past year!
Just one year ago….
Nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic and the landscape of our partner agency network looks vastly different than it did just last year. One year ago, as the pandemic really began to hit home, our MANNA partner agencies, made up of over 240 incredible organizations throughout WNC, leapt into action.
As safety precautions and mask mandates rolled out, our partner agencies totally re-shaped their services in a matter of weeks. Our food pantry partner agencies began drive-through distributions with food boxes. Our community meals partners began offering to-go plates. Our group homes, shelters, and rehabilitation clinics worked to limit congregation while maintaining access to services. We were awestruck by their ingenuity and resolve to continue serving our neighbors in need.
Throughout this past year, the number one thing our partner agencies told us were “we’ve never seen so many new faces.”
Without hesitation, the MANNA network of partner agencies has stepped up to serve all those in need of food, a meal, and even PPE. The steady increase of neighbors in need has led to the MANNA network serving more than double the number of families we were prior to the pandemic. In fact, our network is consistently feeding more than 100,000 people every month.
While, this past year has been a constant moving target of preventive directives and safety protocols, our agencies took each one in stride to protect the clients they serve. I can think of myriad ways our network has adapted over the past year, however, here are just a few of those stories.
Calvary Episcopal Church Food Pantry:
The very weekend a stay-at-home order went into effect Calvary Episcopal in Henderson was slated to have a grand opening for their brand-new 5,000 square foot pantry space. Designed to offer a grocery shopping experience for their clients. Instead they quickly shifted into offering safe, no-contact drive-thru distributions on Saturday mornings in their parking lot. When it’s safe to do so, Calvary is eagerly awaiting re-opening their beautiful pantry to the community. And in the meantime, they continue to serve over 1,200 neighbors in need each month.
The Grace Place, A Community Table:
Situated near beautiful Lake Santeelah in Robbinsville, The Grace Place offered a community meal to anyone who needed it. Their one-stove kitchen worked overtime when they jumped from a few hundred meals a month to well over 2,000 to-go meals. Because of the huge increase in need, they’ve since expanded their kitchen and are now building a pantry to serve neighbors through the pandemic and beyond. Pastor Michelle and her volunteer team, stepped up to take over the TEFAP program in Graham County, a USDA commodity feeding program, offering a drive-thru food box every third Wednesday of the month. Because of the staggering need, The Grace Place team continues to expand their facility including upcoming renovations on a new pantry.
Council on Aging of Buncombe County:
Before the pandemic, Council on Aging of Buncombe County (COAbc) ran four senior dining sites throughout Buncombe County. Offering nutritious meals, a friendly environment for senior socializing and a place to share wellness programs to keep our senior community healthy. All that had to be put on pause when COVID-19 started. The COAbc team didn’t miss a beat and began delivering food directly to senior’s homes, including launching access to CSFP food boxes as part of a federal feeding program. Together with MANNA, COAbc spread the word about FNS benefits available to seniors in a network-wide campaign to connect them to support through our MANNA HelpLine. COAbc continues to innovate on ways to support senior health and wellness.
As we move into this solemn pandemic anniversary we are struck by the sheer malleability of what we do each day – at our core we feed people, but the many ways we feed our community is as numerous as colors in the rainbow.
One thing remains unchanged throughout this pandemic: We will continue to serve our neighbors facing hunger, no matter what it looks like.