Food Donors Step Up with Fresh Produce
Back in July, we highlighted some of our retail store partners and other supporting partners in the food industry. All through this past summer we saw a large surge in fresh produce made available to MANNA. The completion of our new commercial-sized cooler space in mid June was right on time to meet the opportunities, and the needs, that were coming our way. We can report that in the peak growing season, from June through September, we received at our facility 1.98 million pounds of produce, a 48% increase over the same period last year.
This impressive quantity of healthy food is due to the generosity of our amazing food partners as well as the hard work of our food sourcing team, led by Jen Waite. A Produce Strategic Plan, designed by our staff and launched in the fall of 2015, is on track to meet ambitious targets. By the end of 2018, we forecast that we will be able to report over 3.5 million pounds annually in non-retail produce alone (produce from the growers and wholesale packers who donate to us). Engaging more local producers in North Carolina, in collaboration with a statewide Farm to Food Bank initiative, is an important part of this strategy and is proving successful.
In celebrating our bountiful harvest of 2016 we owe a big thank you to funders who have taken a special interest in healthy foods and in particular fresh produce. A gift of $125,000 from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and a $99,660 grant from the USDA-Local Food Promotion Program allowed us to build and fully equip the 18,000 cubic-foot cooler, which has been kept filled nearly to capacity since it came online. A grant of $19,608 from Feeding America, thanks to the Walt Disney Company, helped us develop and implement the Produce Strategic Plan. As well, Summer Packs “booster” grants from the Pisgah Investments Foundation and the Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation allowed us to again feature plenty of kid-friendly fruits and vegetables in our summer program for children in need.
Thank you to everyone that has helped support this important process, and are helping to fill plates with fresh, healthy food for people struggling with hunger across Western North Carolina.