The Need for Food in WNC is Nearly Double Pre-Pandemic Numbers
To put it in plain terms: MANNA is currently working very hard to overcome significant challenges right now to meet the historic need for food that exists in our region.
While a lot of the world is returning to some sense of normalcy since the pandemic began, we are continuing to serve nearly the same number of people that we served during the peak of the pandemic. Through the first quarter of our current fiscal year, we have served an average of over 127,000 neighbors each month. This is 95% higher than our pre-pandemic levels due to the high cost of living in our region, and increased costs for food and other essentials.
In addition to an ever-increasing need for food amongst neighbors in WNC, food donations have decreased. In the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 fiscal years, MANNA received over 20,000,000 lbs. of food donations to support the increased need. In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, however, we received roughly 15,000,000 lbs. This significant decrease in food donations is a concerning trend that we are continuing to see now in our current fiscal year.
With food donations down and the need for food at one of the highest points in MANNA’s history, we have had to purchase a lot more food than we had to in the past. Food costs have risen for food banks, just as they have in grocery stores, due to the supply chain issues. This means that we have not only been sourcing more food through food purchasing, but that we have been paying more for that food than we would have had to spend in years past.
With your help and that of all of our incredible volunteers, partners and supporters, we are doing everything we can to ensure that our neighbors throughout our region have access to food. Our drivers are continuing to drive food throughout the mountains and our partners are continuing to distribute food to neighbors who are looking for food support.
The relief that this food brings for many residents and families throughout WNC is critical. At a recent distribution in Buncombe County, a first time client attended a market who had never before been in a position where she felt like she needed to ask for food. She had recently lost her job and needed support to provide for her and her four children. Thankfully, our partner was able to provide her with food and a sense of hope.
This is not an isolated story. Many of our neighbors throughout our region are continuing to rely upon our wide-range of partners throughout WNC for food. A client attending the Aston Parks mobile market in Asheville stated, “if I am running low, I know that you will be here that week and I will make it.” Partners at Saluda Pop-Up Pantry in Polk County mentioned that one of the senior neighbors attending their market mentioned to them that if it were not for their pantry, she was unsure if she would have any food to eat.
It is essential that we are able to continue reaching these neighbors, so that they have access to food and hope. If you have the ability, there are various ways that you can help us meet the need that are outlined in this newsletter. Participation in our Turkey Drive, the Ingles Giving Tree, local round-up campaigns and community events help provide vital support that allows us to continue serving our neighbors throughout WNC.