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Fill the Mayflower for Manna starts Monday

Manna Food Pantries
Boxes of canned goods are lined up for the Fill the Mayflower event last November.

It’s become a familiar sight every November. A large Mayflower moving van, or two, or more, surrounded by volunteers and being filled with food donated to help local families. It’s the annual Fill The Mayflower event for Manna Food Pantries, and it’s set to go next Monday and Tuesday in the parking lot of the Cordova Mall.

“That drive is critical for us this year,” said DeDe Flounlacker, the executive director at Manna Food Pantries. "We’re depending on (Fill The Mayflower) to bring in thousands and thousands of pounds of food so that it can help us get through the winter, and hopefully into the spring as well.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way Manna provides their services in a number of ways. First, with more people out of work, there is a greater need for food in the region. Second, many sources of food are no longer available.

For the past two years one major source, the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive run by letter carriers, had to be canceled due to the pandemic.

“That is such a critical food drive for us. The last time we had it, two years ago, it brought in over 70,000 pounds of food. That’s a lot of food! (Not having the drive) really negatively impacts our food inventory, really hurts our food inventory a lot. It was the right decision that the letter carriers made, we understand and are not criticizing at all, (but) for us it really hurts.”

Flounlacker says that Manna has had to buy more food than usual this year, and they have had to work the hardest they ever had to bring in food donations since the pandemic began.

“A lot of companies aren’t back in their offices. A lot of faith organizations aren’t back, a lot of congregations aren’t necessarily back in full force. And that makes it hard for companies to hold food drives.”

Like most organizations, Manna Food Pantries has had to adjust the way they deliver their services while adapting to a post-COVID world. “What we’ve done is we’ve expanded our partnerships and our programs. So instead of getting smaller in terms of (our) reach, we have gotten bigger and we’ve added new partners and we added new programs so we can continue to meet that need in the community. None of that is possible without the support of our community. (We) just appreciate everyone out there who helps us feed those kiddos tonight, and help that grandmother who is struggling, and that senior who tomorrow night will not have to figure out ‘should I buy my medication or should I buy food?’"

The Fill The Mayflower for Manna Food Drive starts Monday morning at 5 a.m. in the parking lot of the Cordova Mall on 9th Avenue in Pensacola. It runs for two days, 5 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday, 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Donations of healthy, nonperishable food will be accepted, as well as donations of cash.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.