After a busy summer, Manna Food Pantries is looking forward to stocking up for the rest of the year and getting ready to move. It was late April when the food bank announced it had closed on a new home. Now, almost 6 months later, they are still in their old location on Gonzalez Street.
"It never seems to progress as fast as I want it to but we are expecting to move in April of (2017)." said De De Flounlacker, the Executive Director of Manna. She says there is demolition work going on now at the new location on E Street, and while the work is progressing slowly, the plans for both what the building will eventually look like and how it will be used are going full speed ahead. "The plans are about 95% done, so that's good. We have about 5% more to go. But we basically know where everything's going and I tell you (the space that we are going to have) is going to be just amazing. First of all it's 23 thousand square feet, which is significantly more than we have here. We'll have a lot more space to dedicate for client services." She says that the extra space will allow other agencies to come in for additional services. They are currently talking with Escambia Community Clinics about having a health navigator on site, as well as other agencies.
Looking back over the past few months Flounlacker says it was a busy summer. "With school being out, a lot of our children in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties then don't have access to healthy food." And that has left the food bank lacking in some essentials. Flounlacker says they need bags of brown rice, pasta, canned fruit and vegetables, lots of healthy options with an eye on fighting one of the area’s biggest health issues: Diabetes. "And so when we give out food, we're trying to pack our bags as 'healthy' as we can. So we're always trying to find items that are low sodium, and also low sugar."
Now that the calendar has turned to fall, De De Flounlacker says the heat of the summer not only drove up Manna’s power bill, but necessitated a little creativity in the warehouse. "(The heat) is always hard on the food...we've had to really do some shuffling around in our warehouse and in our other space. You know we are still here at 116 East Gonzalez Street, but really only using about 60% of the space we used before the flood. And what that means is we have to be really creative in how we store our food." She also says their volunteers had a tough summer working in the heat of the warehouse.
Donations and volunteers are always welcome at Manna. Flounlacker says people can call 432-2053 or go to Manna Food Pantries dot org.