The Mayflower has landed in Pensacola. It is, in fact, a large Mayflower moving van parked at the Cordova Mall parking lot and it’s filling up with food. “It’s actually the single largest food drive we do … over the course of a two day period, and it is really important for the hungry in our community,” said De De Flounlacker, the executive director of Manna Food Pantries.
“This restocks our shelves (and) gets us ready for the first part of the year when it’s ‘crickets’ in here sometimes sound-wise because there’s nothing going on. Nobody’s donating food generally in January.”
The Fill the Mayflower for Manna event has been held on the week of Thanksgiving for over a decade. Coastal Moving and Storage provides the trucks and people are asked to donate non-perishable food items and fill those trucks to the brim. “It’s really simple stuff that we need. We need canned vegetables. Particularly those vegetables like carrots, English peas, spinach, squash, potatoes, corn, green beans, although we usually get in a lot of green beans. We need things like whole-grain cereal and oatmeal. And we also (need) some plain pasta. (We) always, always need peanut butter. Always. And then we also need canned fruit in its own juice.”
Canned meats and fish are also valuable items during the drive. And no, do not bring turkeys or other fresh foods to the drive, Manna cannot use them.
Volunteers worked to rearrange the floor at the Manna warehouse on E Street to make room for what Flounlacker hopes will be several thousands of pounds of food. Once the drive is over, more groups will come in to sort the food.
And even though we hear stories of an improving economy, there is still a need for these donations.
“What we’ve been doing over the past couple of years is really try and focus our efforts on partnerships with other agencies who are doing case or care management, so that the food can be used as a resource in their tool-kit to help that family rise up from their situation. So while we have seen a lesser number of people who need help through our pantries, we’re really trying to build those partnerships and programs. We know when someone comes to see us through the pantry and need food, that’s important. Don’t get me wrong, that’s really important to them. But (it’s not) a long term solution. And it’s with those partnerships and programs that we have that we feel like we can make a bigger impact. And, working with partners, provide solutions to these families.”
The number of families who need help from Manna is still pretty large. “Last year over 19,000 people were helped by Manna, and over 44% of them were children. So when you give to Manna, that can of food of that sack of food or whatever it may be, you’re really making a difference in somebody’s life.”
The Fill the Mayflower for Manna food drive began Monday morning at 5 at the Cordova Mall parking lot off Ninth Avenue, and will continue until 6 p.m. On Tuesday, they will still be looking for donations from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.