Food News: MANNA marks major milestone for feeding children


February 10, 2016: (Left to right) Carolyn Henze, her grandson Zach Dickey, age 9, and Joan Good pack snacks and nutrient heavy food in a batch of MANNA Packs for Kids. They are regular MANNA Packs volunteers, working every Wednesday at the MANNA FoodBank Volunteer Center to provide for kids in need in Western North Carolina.


Asheville’s MANNA Food Bank celebrates a major milestone in their tireless efforts to fight hunger in WNC. From their press release…

One Decade. 16 Counties. 149 Schools. Hundreds of Volunteers. Thousands of Children. ONE MILLION MANNA Packs for Kids in Need.
Asheville, NC (February 15, 2016) – MANNA FoodBank is celebrating this year, but it is not a typical celebration. This Friday, MANNA staff and volunteers are delivering the one-millionth MANNA Pack for Kids. The MANNA Packs for Kids program provides emergency food assistance to public school students throughout the 16 counties MANNA FoodBank serves in WNC.

Children needing food is not something anyone celebrates, especially when this desperate need continues to grow. But what MANNA is celebrating this year is a major milestone that represents a huge effort from thousands of people that truly care: MANNA is celebrating every volunteer, every donor, every school representative, and every food supplier that has helped to provide food to children on a regular weekly basis, and continues to provide for the most vulnerable residents of WNC. MANNA is celebrating the delivery of the one millionth bag of food through the MANNA Packs for Kids program as a representation of what this collective community effort has achieved.

Ten years ago, Beth Stahl, Youth Programs Manager for MANNA, started a partnership with Oakley Elementary School in Asheville, N.C. to deliver the very first MANNA Pack to a child in need. That year, MANNA distributed a grand total of 50 bags of food to children in need. This was the first pebble in what has grown to be a landslide of community work to ensure that the children of Western North Carolina who depend on free and reduced school breakfast and lunch would also have food when they were not at school, over weekends and school breaks. Now, Stahl works with MANNA’s dedicated network of MANNA Packs partners and volunteers, distributing over 4,800 packs every week in partnership with 149 schools across all of WNC.

“I think the most meaningful thing helping here is knowing how much they’re needed,” says Nils Nelson, who has been volunteering with MANNA for three years. “We understand there is more and more need, and it’s meaningful to us to help make that happen, particularly for children.”

“It’s magic, really, how it all comes together,” says Lisa Cantrell, Director of Operations for MANNA FoodBank, who has been at MANNA since the beginning of the program, and has seen it evolve and grow. Every Friday, a bag of nutrient-dense food is discreetly slipped into thousands of WNC schoolkids backpacks. The food in the pack changes from week to week, but the key elements remain the same: High-nutrient, shelf-stable food, the makings for a family meal, breakfast and snack items, and fresh fruit when available.

But what happens first is the “magic” to which Lisa is referring: Hundreds of people come together every week to make this magic work – planning each week’s bag items, finding and getting the food to MANNA, sorting and organizing the food, packing the week’s bags, loading them into trucks and vans, delivering them to schools, and finally, packed lovingly into a child’s backpack to be sent home with them over the weekend. This intricate dance happens every week without fail, and sometimes must be sped up to a fever pitch if there is the anticipation of poor weather conditions resulting in school closings.

“It’s like a race every week,” says Pat Thobe, one MANNA volunteer that dedicates time to packing MANNA Packs each week. “We throw the packs through the assembly line,” she laughs, “but we do other things, too.”

“The most meaningful thing to me about helping with the MANNA Packs program is that I’m helping people not go hungry,” says Thobe.

If you are interested in learning more about the MANNA Packs for Kids program, or want to become a part of it, please visit MANNA FoodBank’s website,, or call 828-299-FOOD (3663).

February 10, 2016: Zach Dickey (left), 9, places the one-millionth MANNA Pack into a box for delivery while the rest of the volunteer crew celebrates. Zach had the day off from school due to weather cancellations, and was able to join his grandmother, Carolyn Henze (right), for her regular Wednesday volunteer shift. When asked what inspired him to get involved with MANNA, Zach points to her: “My grandmother inspired me.”

About MANNA FoodBank

MANNA FoodBank is a 501-(c)(3) and a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. In 2014, MANNA distributed 15 million pounds of food, enough to provide 34,000 meals every day of the year. We distribute this food through our 248 partner agencies that are scattered all over the 16 counties of Western North Carolina.

December 2015: Wells Fargo employees work the assembly line two days before Christmas, packing MANNA Packs that will be sent home with thousands of students over the winter school break.

About Feeding America

Feeding America is the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. Together, we provide food to more than 46 million people through 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger;
and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger. Visit, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.


1 Comment

Gina February 18, 2016 - 4:50 pm

Yay MAnna Food Bank!!! Congrats!!

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