One year later, Manna Food Bank highlights impact and changes due to COVID-19


*deep sigh* (behind our mask, of course)

On April 1, 2020, Manna’s administrative team packed up our files and keyboards, our mousepads and mouses (or is it mice?), our computers and equipment, and went home to work. Just two warehouse staff members and fewer than a dozen volunteers remained on-site to ensure Manna’s food distributions continued as the need for assistance grew in our community.

A lot has changed at Manna in the past 12 months, but we never stopped providing food to our neighbors in need; we just did it a little different. We took a careful and comprehensive look at food assistance in Northwest Florida and adapted our services in a way that best served our community. Manna’s food distribution model has shifted to incorporate more community partners (a lot more!), with a special focus on agencies and organizations that case-manage the individuals and families who utilize their services. Through it all, we never wavered on our commitment to provide food assistance free of charge, to reduce duplication of services, to reach those in our community who needed us most, and to always provide the healthiest food possible.

Manna’s service footprint began to grow drastically in March 2020 and hasn’t stopped. In the last year, Manna provided food to 76 community agencies and organizations to ensure our neighbors in need affected by the COVID-19 crisis were fed. Through our partners, Manna’s resources were distributed at more than 130 distribution points across the two-county area. It takes a village, amirite?

The full list of agencies/organizations is below.

While our country and community were forced to slow, and in some cases, shut down, Manna HAD to expand and grow. We developed partnerships and programs that will continue well beyond the days of coronavirus. The following organizations support children, seniors, and everyone in between in need of assistance with healthcare, education, housing, food and so much more. We look forward to our combined impact with our friends at Covenant Care, Cantonment Improvement Committee, Children’s Home Society, and Volunteers of America.

We, of course, never stopped supporting our 10 community partners who we collaborate with on our nine specialty programs in normal times (serious question: what is “normal”?), including: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast and United Way of West Florida (UWWF) for the Tummy Bundles program, Pensacola Police Department and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for the School Resource Officer Food Program, Santa Rosa County School District for the Backpacks4Teens program, Ministry Village at Olive for the Tender Hearts Caring Hands program, Westminster Village for the Healthy Seniors Food Program, UWWF for the AmeriCorps VISTA program, Gulf Coast Kid’s House, Santa Rosa Kid’s House and OASIS Florida.

You’ve heard us say it before, and it’s never been truer than now: we could NOT do what we do without our volunteers. Due to many circumstances associated with COVID-19, our operational volunteer workforce was suddenly reduced by 87% in March 2020. It was devastating – both for Manna’s staff and operations, as well as our volunteers who so generously give of their time and love. We were and are still very fortunate, though, for a small but mighty team of volunteers who keep us going, and, somehow, made it possible for Manna to distribute 32% more food (in pounds) and serve 61% more individuals than in the year before.

Our most sincere thanks go to our essential crew: Gene, Kitty, Becky, Hilda, Shruti, Michelle, Loren, Merida, Evan, Liana, Gretchen, Katia, Gunnar, and Bill.

Volunteers also helped us in 2020 with something we don’t ordinarily do: home delivery. Volunteers at Cokesbury United Methodist Church, Frank Giammaria of Gulf Winds Credit Union, Ed Carson of Carson Construction, Susan Clark of Emerald Coast Hospice, and Rachel Smith of Brunch League ensured seniors in our Monthly Seniors Food Program, as well as clients of Center for Independent Living, received healthy food boxes. Our friends at Cokesbury UMC are STILL doing home delivery of Manna food boxes, because they’re rock stars, obviously! This is a logistical feat, and we cannot thank our delivery volunteers enough for the kind work they do to ensure seniors can stay home and stay safe, while receiving the nutritious groceries they need.

None of Manna’s work from March 2020 through March 2021 (or, p.s., ever!) would’ve been possible without YOU, our Hunger Heroes! We wish we could give each of you a big ‘ol hug (but maybe an *air* hug, ‘cuz covid) and shout from the rooftops (but only the ones with Sally repairs completed) how wonderful you are! But seriously, the Northwest Florida community and beyond has shown Manna and those we serve overwhelming kindness, compassion, and generosity. We are filled with gratitude for your generous support of families facing hunger and uncertainty. Your contributions of time, talent and treasure have made it possible for them to begin rebuilding.

The COVID-19 crisis has given us the opportunity – just as we had following the devastating floods of 2014 – to reflect and examine our work, and then make certain we’re doing what’s right for our community. We promise to keep you updated and informed about our progress post-COVID 19. You can expect from us more collaborations with outstanding community partners working to ensure Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are a better place to live, work and play! Together, our impact will be greater and more meaningful.

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90 Works, Adult Protective Services, Alpha Center, Bellview Middle School, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast, Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE), Bright Bridge Ministries, Brownsville Assembly of God, Cantonment Improvement Committee, Capstone Academy, CareerSource Escarosa, Center for Independent Living Disability Resource Center, Children’s Home Society, Church on Wheels, Community Health Northwest Florida, Council on Aging of West Florida, Covenant Care, Crown Church, Department of Children and Families, Echo Life Church, Emerald Coast Hospice and Palliative Care, Epilepsy Foundation, Escambia County Fire Rescue, Escambia County School District, Families First Network, Feed My Sheep at St. Paul Catholic Church Pensacola, First Baptist Church Milton, First United Methodist Church of Pensacola, Greater Union Baptist Church, Gulf Breeze Interfaith Disaster Resource Council, Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church, Healthy Families Florida, Healthy Start, Heavenly Blessings, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), James B. Washington Education & Sports, Kindred at Home, Kingsfield Elementary, Lakeview Center, Legal Services of North Florida, Lighthouse Health Plan, Loaves and Fishes, Lutheran Services, Ministry Village at Olive, Myrtle Grove First Baptist Church, New Hope Christian Center, New Life Deliverance Temple, Oakwood Terrace, Opening Doors of Northwest Florida, Pace Center for Girls, Pathways for Change, Pensacola EggFest, Pensacola Fire Department, Pensacola State College, Pensacola Police Department, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, ReEntry Alliance Pensacola (REAP), Salvation Army, Food Service Industry, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Pensacola, St. Ann Catholic Church (Gulf Breeze), St. Anne Catholic Church (Bellview), St. John Divine Missionary Baptist Church (Jordan Street), St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church (Milton), Survivor Outreach Services, Team RUBICON, The Birthday Party, Inc., Truth for Youth, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Volunteers of America, Warrington Emergency Aid, Waterfront Rescue Mission, West Florida High School, Westminster Village, Workman Middle