Manna Food Pantries Still Busy 18 Months After The Flood
It’s been 18 months since floods severely damaged their headquarters, and Manna Food Pantries is still looking for a new home.
"Over the past 12 months we've helped feed 20,303 of your neighbors and mine. And that's pretty astounding." De De Flounlacker, the Executive Director of Manna Food Pantries will almost always look on the bright side of a situation. Standing inside one of two construction trailers that the food bank has been using as offices since the flood in April of 2013, she talked about the continuing search for a new permanent home for the food bank. She says the biggest challenge is the amount of storage space they lost in the flood. While they were able to reclaim the receiving warehouse on the property, they are only able to use 20% of the main warehouse, which is their only air conditioned space. "So that's been pretty challenging for us. Food is an interesting thing to handle! You can't just put it on the shelf and forget about it".
The situation has also prompted Manna to concentrate of food quality instead of quantity. "I'm happy to say we've been able to increase the quality of the food we've been giving, and that makes us happy. We've really been able to focus on the nutritional aspect of the food. We've had that focus for a long time, but even more these past 18 months."
Flounlacker says this is the busiest time of the year for the food bank. More people start to think about donating to non-profits as we approach the end of the year and the holidays. This is also the month when Manna has two of its biggest fund raising events. The first one is this Friday. The annual Pick A Bowl for Manna Food Pantries event is this Friday at Pensacola State College from 5 until 8pm. The lunch preview is from 11 until 2. People are invited to come in a purchase a bowl for 30 dollars. "(The bowls are) hand made, hand crafted by local potters. these are beautiful bowls. you pay 30 dollars, and by the way that 30 dollars actually helps us feed someone for a whole week".
And just 10 days later, it’s time for the annual Fill the Mayflower event. That’s when Coastal Moving and Storage parks a Mayflower moving van in the Cordova Mall parking lot and asks you to help fill it with food. The dates for that are Monday, November 23 from 5am to 7pm, and Tuesday, November 24 from 7am to 7pm.
Looking ahead to the New Year, De De Flounlacker is hopeful that Manna can finally find a new location. Many people have suggested they move to the Ellyson Industrial park where there is a lot of warehouse space, but she says that would be too out of the way for clients to come and pick up their food. Manna did purchase property in Pensacola from the Escambia County District about a year ago, but concerns from neighborhood residents forced a change of plans. That property is now back on the market.
Meanwhile, other than finding a new home, Flounlacker has some hopes for the coming new year. "My wish for Manna (is) to continue to look for gaps in service in our community, which has become sort of our specialty right now, and try to find out who are those people in our community that are being overlooked. And we are working with our fellow agencies...to help identify those populations of people.