WORTHINGTON - Knowing food insecurity in Nobles County is uncomfortably high for hundreds of families, the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) is offering matching grants totaling $37,000 to two local food shelves.


Through March 31, donations made to either Manna Food Pantry or the Worthington Christian Food Shelf will be matched dollar for dollar - up to $30,000 for MFP and up to $7,000 for WCFS.


“We hope to raise the entire $7,000 needed to access the full $7,000 matching amount so we can maintain the food supply here,” said LeAnn Thiner, co-coordinator of WCFS with her husband, Bernie.


“Our goal is to raise $75,000 overall, in both donations, matching dollars and poundage of food donations,” said Linda Sanchez, MFP manager.


Jeff Rotert, executive director of the WRHCF, explained that this is the first time WCFS has submitted a grant application to the foundation.


“We approached them in 2014 and gave a matching grant, but this is the first time we received the request directly from them,” Rotert said, noting that $7,000 was the asked-for amount.


“MFP is seeking $30,000 in matching funds to support their food purchases for the coming 12-month period.”


Both MFP and WCFS require that those benefiting from their services are residents of Nobles County, and potential clients 18 and older must present identification and proof of residence in the county in order to register. Clients may obtain food from only one of the two food shelves in any given year.

Worthington Christian Food Shelf

Within the Worthington Christian Church at 1501 Douglas Ave., up to eight volunteers stock shelves, assist clients and keep the WCFS running on a weekly basis.


“It’s completely staffed by volunteers, and we partner with Second Harvest Heartland,” said LeAnn Thiner, now in her fourth year of coordinating WCFS with her spouse.


Thiner said an average of 80 families per month are served at WCFS, and in 2018 WCFS provided 57,000 pounds of food overall.


“It’s interesting that of those we serve there are about 100 children fed each month, so families with children really benefit from our services,” said Thiner.


Once a month, clients may come to WCFS to select products.


“We provide about a three- to four-day supply of food,” said Thiner. “The amount is geared to the number of people in each family.


“And we do have bread products, or sometimes produce, that people can get once weekly in the other weeks of the month. But really, what the food shelf offers is a supplemental supply of food.”


Thiner is grateful to the eight volunteers who assist her and Bernie in operating WCFS.


“We have wonderful volunteers,” said Thiner. “You can put a star on that. They’re very dedicated, and we appreciate the support.


“They all work very hard.”

Manna Food Pantry

Just west of Diagonal Road at Clary Street, MFP is housed in the lower level of Westminster Presbyterian Church, with entrance through the easternmost doors of the main parking lot.


In 2018, MFP had 644 registered families, with 12 percent of those registered visiting the pantry on a weekly basis year-round.


Furthermore, manager Linda Sanchez reported that MFP served 14,689 individuals in 2018 and distributed 320,994 pounds of food.


“We have about 20 great volunteers,” said Sanchez, “but one of our biggest needs is more volunteers to help unload the food truck when it arrives on the first and third Thursday of each month between 11 a.m. and noon.”


Like WCFS, MFP partners with Second Harvest Heartland and also receives a good deal of local assistance, including from firms like Tri-State Truck Wash and Smith Trucking.


“I like to buy items locally when possible and watch the grocery ads closely,” said Sanchez.


“We really try to keep choices on the healthy side and watch the sodium and sugar content in products we have.


“Our motto is ‘fresh is best.’”


This is the third consecutive year MFP has received a matching grant from WRHCF, so it will be ineligible to apply next year.


“Our guidelines prevent us from funding any organization for more than three consecutive years because we don’t want to become the sole funder of a program or organization,” explained Rotert.


“But Manna can apply again in 2021.”


That makes achieving this year’s $30,000 match all the more vital for MFP.


“We’d like to be able to get the full match,” said Sanchez.


“Without community support like this, we wouldn’t have the amount of products available, there would be fewer food choices overall for our clients and it would be much harder to supply fresh produce year-round.”


As is the case at WCFS, MFP provides about a three-day food supply to the average family visiting. Also, clients may come as often as once a week in the other weeks of the month for bread and produce items.


“It definitely takes a community effort to keep offering this service,” said Sanchez, adding that income-eligible seniors aged 60 or older can qualify for NAPS (Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors), which is also operated via MFP.


“I wish even more seniors were aware of and would make use of NAPS because it can help them out a lot,” said Sanchez.


Sanchez expresses gratitude in advance to would-be donors, and to the WRHCF for its generosity.


“I’d like to say thank you ahead of time to everyone for helping us reach our goal,” said Sanchez.

Making the match

Rotert is hopeful the community will step forward with donations to either or both MFP and WCFS so the WRHCF can issue the full grant awards to the two food shelves.


“If you look at the numbers of families and individuals they serve, you can see there is a pretty great need here for their services,” said Rotert.


“Whether it’s just about having fresh fruit and veggies available, or canned soup, it’s important for us to support what they’re doing to fill a real nutritional gap for hundreds of local families.”


Checks should be made payable to Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation; please write on your check’s memo line the name of the food shelf to which you wish your money be directed. Checks or cash received through March 31 will count toward the matching grants. Donations may be dropped off at either food shelf or at the WRHCF office in the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, 1121 Third Ave., Worthington.


Manna Food Pantry, located at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 230 West Clary St., Worthington, is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “Senior day” (for NAPS products and kid-free service) is the first Thursday of each month from 1-2:30 p.m. For more information, call 329-1951.


WCFS, located at Worthington Christian Church, 1501 Douglas Ave., Worthington, is open from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday, 1-5 p.m. Thursday, 1-3 p.m. Friday, and from 5-7 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. For more information, call 376-3418.