Between March 1 and July 31, MANNA FoodBank distributed 10.5 million pounds of food, an increase of 31% over the same time period in 2019. The Asheville-based nonprofit is a vital link providing crucial help to over 200 partner agencies fighting hunger in Western North Carolina. While need in MANNA’s 16-county service area continues to grow, its pool of volunteers has declined, and the organization is asking for a hand — many hands, in fact — to help out at its warehouse on Swannanoa River Road.
“When this crisis started back in March, many of our regular volunteers we relied on were higher-risk individuals and needed to stay home to stay safe,” says Kara Irani, director of marketing and communications. “In their place, a lot of low-risk volunteers stepped in to help.”
Those volunteers included high school and college students, families that had kids out of school and people furloughed and laid off from their jobs. “As schools have reopened, young adults have gone back to college, and some jobs are back. We are seeing a serious shortage of volunteers needed to keep up this work,” says Irani. “Our partner agencies rely on volunteers to distribute the food boxes we pack from their locations, so we want to get as much packed on-site as possible to support them.”
Three-hour volunteer shifts take place morning and afternoon five days a week, and volunteers are trained in the warehouse on all projects. Strict safety precautions are followed; volunteers are required to bring their own masks.
“We encourage people to sign up for a regular shift once a week or once a month, so we know what to expect. But we’re not saying no to anyone,” Irani says. “We are feeding close to 100,000 people a month. The need is just staggering.”
For details on volunteering with MANNA, visit mannafoodbank.org.