The State of Hunger: A Note From Our CEO, Claire Neal

The State of Hunger: A Note From Our CEO, Claire Neal

Today I reach out to you not as the CEO of MANNA FoodBank, but as a fellow community member deeply invested in the well-being of our neighbors across Western North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary. We are so grateful for you and how you faithfully come alongside to support our neighbor in need.  

We want to share a brief update on the current state of hunger within our communities which is more pressing than ever. The rising costs of living—rent, utilities, food, and gas—have forced an additional 18.2% of our neighbors to seek our help this year. This staggering statistic translates to an average of 162,000+ individuals depending on MANNA and our incredible partner network each month. To put it into perspective, MANNA is currently serving more people than during the height of the 2020 shutdown and in fact the highest in our 40-year history. 

The Volunteer Center Floor at MANNA

Conversely, as disaster relief funds are going away, MANNA is not able to purchase as much food as we did during the pandemic without relief funding. Although we are working extremely hard to increase the amount of donated food, we have yet to reach our pre-pandemic levels of food donations.  

Although we are on track to provide approximately 21.2 million pounds of food or the equivalent of 17.1 million meals this year, a 6% increase over last year, we are still deeply concerned that the amount of food that we are able to provide is not keeping pace with the 18.2% increase in the number of our neighbors who are in great need of our support.  

Our communities are a tapestry woven with individuals each with their unique lived experiences—those working lower-wage jobs, seniors on fixed incomes, single parents striving to feed their children, individuals with chronic illnesses or disabilities, and those facing situational poverty. Even those who once managed to make ends meet are now one unexpected expense away from not knowing where their next meals are coming from.  

We are inspired and awed by the challenges that we have overcome because of your care and compassion and are reminded on a daily basis about what is possible when good people share the same ethos.  

Additionally, we are energized in knowing that because we can provide four meals for $1.00, every single dollar matters. It is beautiful to envision our neighbors enjoying salads, sandwiches, and Sunday morning breakfasts together as we do. Your support truly is an act of kindness that reverberates throughout our communities across WNC and the Qualla Boundary. 

With heartfelt thanks and much hope for the future, 

—Claire Neal 

Every dollar counts. If you feel called to support our mission, donations can easily be made here: