Tears of Joy

Posted 01/21/14

From MANNA’s Executive Director, Cindy Threlkeld

Have you ever cried, not out of sadness, but from joy and relief? At MANNA, we hear stories from our program and pantry directors about these kinds of tears. Tears of happiness from a grandmother who can now prepare a holiday meal to share with children and loved ones. Tears of relief from an out of work father, knowing that for this month, all the bills will be paid.

2013 has been a challenging year for many of the people in Western North Carolina facing hunger. We’ve seen programs go without funding and safety net cuts. For our clients, government shutdowns and political gamesmanship aren’t news stories that they can forget about when they turn off the radio. Our most vulnerable have been on a roller coaster, a roller coaster that mostly seems to continue downhill.

This year we distributed 12.8 million pounds of food- more than we’ve ever distributed before, and more than double what we distributed in 2008. At MANNA we provide enough food for 1100 meals every hour of the day, every day of the year, but still 1 in 6 people struggle each day to put food on the table.

Our country struggles with another problem, one that seems to fly in the face of the scarcity that so many experience, a problem of excess and waste. More than 40% of the food produced in our country never makes it to the table. This includes “cosmetically challenged” produce that gets discarded or plowed under, as well as perishable foods like meat and dairy yogurt that don’t get sold before the “Best by” date. It could even be the healthy new cereal you resolved to try that never got opened.

You would be impressed by the creative ways that our food sourcer (also called MANNA’s hunter-gatherer) manages to acquire over a million pounds of food a month. With the support of our partners, volunteers, and donors, MANNA will continue to be the connection that ensures more of this surplus food is part of a healthy meal, and not a landfill. We will also continue to advocate for a stronger nutrition safety net, and help people utilize programs that can help feed their families during tough times.

Our mission is to involve, educate, and unite people in the work of ending hunger in Western North Carolina. This is no small task. I am often asked if I truly believe in the possibility of “A hunger-free WNC.” To quote a hero of mine, Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

I am also frequently asked even more often: What can I do? Can one person truly make a difference in this effort? Absolutely, you can.

Stay Informed. Pay attention to the current debate on the Farm Bill, which includes the SNAP budget (food stamps). Find out more about the issues that contribute to food insecurity. An excellent place to start is last year’s documentary, A Place at the Table, available on Netflix or iTunes.

Donate your time or money. Last year 6,935 volunteers donated time to MANNA, and the hours they contributed gave MANNA the equivalent of 27 staff members. Hundreds of individuals and organizations hold food drives for MANNA and many of the pantries and food programs that are part of our network. Financial support is important too, and 94 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to providing food for those in need.

Advocate. Food banks alone can never end hunger. We need a strong economy, jobs that pay a living wage, and strong state and federal safety net programs that help people stay afloat during tough times. Often a few months of food stamps or unemployment benefits can help a person maintain their house, transportation and health in order to be employable when the opportunity comes.

Thank you for your continued support of MANNA and the work we do.


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