WORTHINGTON - When every dollar makes a difference, it’s doubly important to maximize each opportunity.
That’s why the Manna Food Pantry (MFP) and its coordinator, Linda Sanchez, are thankful for the $30,000 matching grant the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF) is offering during the pantry’s annual March fund drive.
“Every penny and every product count when it comes to the food pantry,” said Sanchez, who has managed the local pantry for the past four and a half years.
“The March campaign is our big once-a-year fundraiser, and because the MFP is strictly funded by grants and donations, this matching grant is a vital one to receive.”
Beginning on Feb. 26 and continuing through April 8, donations made to the MFP via the WRHCF will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $30,000.
“The WRHCF has done this before, and last year the pantry received $37,851 during its 2017 drive so we were able to provide the full $30,000 match,” shared Jeff Rotert, executive director of the WRHCF.
“Recently we’ve seen other local projects that have shown this community’s heart and generosity, so we are hopeful we can award the full $30,000 to the pantry again this year.”
With a nine-member governing board comprised of community members representing several different churches, the MFP leverages every grant and donation that comes its way for maximum impact.
“While we welcome every donation of product, we can get a lot more food for our dollar if we have the dollars,” explained Sanchez.
“Sometimes I can stretch approximately $10 up to $100 worth of food by purchasing through the Second Harvest Heartland and watching for local sales.”
For instance, Sanchez mentioned that a certain type of cereal currently stocked on the pantry’s shelves was obtained for 20 cents per box, and she can sometimes buy canned goods for 10 cents per unit.
“That can really stretch the dollars we have available,” said Sanchez, noting the pantry serves residents of Nobles County.
Sanchez is used to making the most of what she has available, not only when it comes to the MFP’s budget but also its people power.
With the aid of about only 15 regular volunteers, Sanchez reports that the MFP registered 635 households in 2017, with 4,388 visits made and a total of 15,392 individuals benefiting from the provision of 272,505 pounds of products.
“During January 2018, we registered 349 households and distributed 24,404 pounds of product,” said Sanchez of the most recent data available.
MFP clients must register on an annual basis, providing approved identification and proof of residence for each household resident 18 years of age or older.
Applicant households have maximum income thresholds (example: a household of two may have a combined annual income of no more than $32,480, and the ceiling for allowable income increases by $8,360 per additional family member/resident) and must any other sources of assistance or benefits they are receiving (i.e., Head Start enrollment, WIC, free/reduced lunch for students, Social Security benefits, etc.).
“We like to screen clients as closely as we can to know they are eligible for the program,” confirmed Sanchez.
An additional program, NAPS (Nutritional Assistance Program for Seniors), is offered via the MFP serves people age 60 and above. On the first Thursday of each month, registered seniors who are income-eligible may go through the food pantry and also receive about $50 worth of food products.
“It’s equivalent to what the commodities program used to be years ago,” said Sanchez. “Our board decided to start a ‘seniors day’ to coincide with NAPS delivery so that people with walkers and canes could move about more easily without small children here.
“It’s been a good benefit, and we average about 40 to 45 people on those senior days.”
Besides donations of dollars and food, Sanchez can always make use of volunteers.
“Volunteers are always welcome to help distribute food to families and to help pick up food from local grocery stores,” said Sanchez, mentioning with appreciation the regular donations shared with MFP by local stores Fareway, Hy-Vee and Walmart, as well as the generous donations given year-round by individuals, churches and organizations throughout Nobles County.
“We also need extra volunteers for about an hour at a time on the first and third Thursdays of each month to unload our truck of supplies from Second Harvest Heartland.”
Rotert and the WRHCF board see a clear connection between good health and the kind of nutritional assistance provided to Nobles County residents in need through the MFP.
“It’s an obvious need here to make sure we don’t have community members going hungry,” said Rotert.
“Nutritious food is necessary for everyone’s health and survival. We’re hopeful that people who can afford to give will rise to the occasion during this matching grant window of time and support this worthwhile organization.”
Added Sanchez, “I enjoy working for MFP and helping those in need because I was raised by Christian parents who would give the shirt of their backs to help anyone.
“It’s rewarding to be able to see someone in dire straits walk out of here with food for their families and smiles on their faces, and we appreciate the WRHCF’s support.
“Without these matching funds, we wouldn’t be able to offer as much variety for our clients and our budget would definitely be a lot tighter.”
The Manna Food Pantry is located at 230 Clary St., Worthington, in the lower level of Westminster Presbyterian Church (use the east entrance off parking lot). Food is distributed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To qualify for the WRHCF’s matching grant and contribute to the Manna Food Pantry’s annual fund drive, which ends April 8, please make checks payable to the WRHCF and note “Manna” in the memo line. Send donations either to Manna Food Pantry at 230 Clary St. or to WRHCF, 1121 Third Ave., Worthington 56187. Questions may be directed to Linda Sanchez at 329-1951.