WRHCF offering boost to Manna Food Pantry during annual campaign
WORTHINGTON -- While the arrival of March means that spring's approaching -- Thursday and Friday's blizzard conditions notwithstanding -- it also marks a critical time of the year for the Manna Food Pantry.
WORTHINGTON - While the arrival of March means that spring’s approaching - Thursday and Friday’s blizzard conditions notwithstanding - it also marks a critical time of the year for the Manna Food Pantry.
Manna Food Pantry officially kicked off its annual March Food Campaign - the organization’s primary fundraiser of the year - on Friday, and the effort will continue through April 5.
“The goal this year is set at $75,000,” Manna Food Pantry Coordinator Linda Sanchez said. “The theme this year is ‘Squash Hunger,’ and the name actually has a dual purpose. Number one, we want to try and eliminate hunger in Nobles County, and we’re also trying very hard to carry fresh produce continuously throughout the year and not just during the growing season.”
The Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation (WRHCF), for the third time, is offering matching funds to boost the campaign.
“In 2014, we gave them funds of about $35,000 and in 2015 we gave about $22,000,” said Jeff Rotert, the foundation’s executive director. “This year, we have a match of up to $30,000.
“Anytime that we can help people get nutritious food, that’s part of what we want to do to maintain a well community,” he added. “When one sees the number of people they (Manna) touch, it’s a pretty impressive number.”
Those numbers are sizeable, indeed.
“In our local campaign in 2016, we raised a total amount of $41,013.69 and collected 20,024 pounds of food,” said Sanchez, who also encourages people to donate food items during this month’s campaign. She noted that several churches are also undertaking efforts to provide both food and monetary assistance each March.
During last year’s statewide food campaign last spring, which encompassed approximately 300 food shelves across Minnesota, a total of $7.5 million and 5.1 million pounds of food were collected.
“Last year, locally, we had 4,471 households that utilized our pantry; or an average of approximately 372 households per month,” elaborated Sanchez, who explained that the pantry’s household and individual totals include duplications. “We provided service to 16,258 individuals, and we distributed 318,998 pounds of food.”
Sanchez, now entering her fourth year as the pantry’s coordinator, said those numbers are about average for her tenure.
Most of the products available at Manna Food Pantry are purchased from Second Harvest Heartland out of the Twin Cities, which offers significant discounts on large-quantity orders. However, Sanchez keeps an eye out for in-town sales, too,
“I'm a very big ad watcher,” she said.”If there is a product in one of the stores here that is on sale, I will buy here so I spend the money locally. As an example, not too long ago, we ordered 30 cases of chili beans from Hy-Vee and 20 cases of ketchup from Fareway. I watch for items as such so I can buy local.”
In addition to Second Harvest Heartland, Hy-Vee (12,891 pounds donated in 2016) and Fareway (11,407 pounds donated), Manna Food Pantry gets no shortage of products from Wal-Mart (87,517 pounds) as a result of that store’s belonging to the Feeding America program.
The aforementioned fresh produce effort also has plenty of regional contributors, too - among them being Brandt Gardens and Greenhouse in Lakefield, the community garden in Worthington, Grandpa’s Fun Farm in Round Lake and Haberman Produce in Brewster. As a result, Manna Food Pantry was able to meet its 2016 nutritional goals.
“Pat Haberman and his team from Haberman Produce donated 10,372 pounds of produce in 2016,” Sanchez said. “That far exceeds any fresh produce that we've gotten in any year in the past.”
A new walk-in cooler and freezer purchased in 2016 thanks to the receipt of multiple grants helps with both the fresh produce and multiple other food products, Sanchez said. The large cooler/freezer unit replaced nine household-type freezers, resulting in what she noted is much more economical storage of items.
GIfts for this year’s March Food Campaign will further supply needs of the pantry. Sanchez indicated that Manna has started carrying personal care items such as shampoo, deodorant and bar soup, among other products. Along with the matching dollars from the WRHCF, a match will also originate from the Greater Minnesota Council of Churches, which matches both dollars and pounds of food contributed. Additionally, individuals who give cash can stretch those dollars out further than donations of food because of food shelves’ access to discount products and programs - this is a result of Manna’s long-time partnership with Minnesota FoodShare.
Sanchez also added that in addition to monetary and food gifts, new volunteers at the pantry are welcomed year-round.
“The biggest thing we need volunteers for is truck unloading,” she said, “We get a truck in on the first and third Thursday of every month - men and women, we just unload the truck and bring everything into the food pantry. If someone wants to volunteer just a few hours once a week distributing food in the pantry that's always welcome, too,
“Obviously, without volunteers, we couldn’t have a pantry.”
Any checks written during the March Food Campaign should be made out to the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation, with Manna Food Pantry written on the memo line, in order for Manna to get the dollar-for-dollar match. The checks may be mailed to Manna Food Pantry, 230 Clary Street, Worthington; or the WRHCF at the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, 1121 Third Ave, Worthington.
For more information about Manna Food Pantry, phone 329-1951.