a day at manna food center


Manna’s truck drivers arrive at 6:30 a.m. They visit between eight and ten stores a day, arriving back at the distribution center around lunch time. Once back, the drivers help offload the donations into the warehouse. Some then head back out to one of Manna’s network of satellite distribution centers.

“There’s times when they’re not done until 8:30 at night,” said Trostle. “It’s not unusual for me to see a 13-hour day put in by these guys.”

Volunteers begin rolling in around 9 a.m. They start by helping organize the newly arrived food, packing boxes, and getting things prepared for distribution. When the doors open at noon, volunteers are up front at the distribution table, ready with carts to ferry boxes and bags of food to clients’ vehicles.

In the evenings, when most have gone home for the day, a different group of volunteers arrives. “Elves,” Kevin calls them. In the morning, staff and volunteers arrive to find the pallets, once stacked with various food items, now stacked high with brown boxes that are sorted, sealed and ready to go.

Volunteers serve Manna in other capacities as well. The referrals office serves as a sort of one-stop shop for client sign-up, customer service, and daily logistical and administrative work. At any given moment, there is a veritable platoon of people manning the desks and service windows -- two employees, and three or four volunteers. Other volunteers help out off-site. Director of development Mark Foraker recounted a recent food drive that took place at 27 branches of a major grocery chain, over the course of a two-day weekend: “Mathematically, even if only one of [the staff] took each store, it would be impossible to do.” Once again, the volunteers came through.

Managing an operation of Manna’s scale is an ongoing task. Staff members, full-time and part-time, work alongside volunteers and partner organizations to provide more than 2.1 million pounds of food each year. These social servants work from sun-up to sundown, weekdays and weekends, so that the people and businesses of Montgomery County can come together to support one another in times of need. Manna provides a wonderful example of what can happen when neighbors reach out to neighbors.

About the Author: Jarrod Jabre is a theatre artist, educator, writer, theologian, and beer & wine specialist. He currently resides in Silver Spring with his fiancee, Bethany, and cat, Toby. In his free time, he likes to joke about having free time.