Intern Reflection: Healthy Hues for You

Jackie Here. Working with community groups has always been a passion of mine. Connecting with people one-on-one can be impactful, but also intimidating. There isn’t a stage or podium to hide behind when you are shaking someone’s hand and asking if they want a sample of your vegetable salad! Luckily during my second week with Manna Food Center, I was able to interact with a live audience at the Glenmont food pantry in Silver Spring, Maryland to further develop my interpersonal skills.

On the day of the presentation, I came prepared with all of the materials my internship partner, Isabella, and I had created. Colorful copies of “healthy hues for you,” recipe printouts, food models, and of course, the food samples were brought in. We were stationed off of the main hallway in a small room where the carts were held for the participants to shop with. Our table was proudly decorated with a bright red Manna tablecloth and displayed our education materials and hands-on activity. We were ready to go!

Since we weren’t visible to the people waiting in line to be checked in, Isabella and I brought the samples and handouts to them. I noticed that people are were initially intrigued by the black bean and tomato salad which is when I could talk to them about the varieties of vegetables we included. I would ask them what vegetables they like to cook with, do they not like preparing some varieties, and has Manna introduced them to any new produce. It was great hearing what people’s individual likes and dislikes were. Many people would light up when they listed off what they have received from Manna; some were vegetables I had never heard of before like watermelon radish.

Jackie, UMD Dietetic Intern.

Along with the nutrition table set up in the room, there was a cart with free children’s books for the taking. While some parents were checking in with the volunteer at the desk, we would ask kids if they wanted to peruse the books. I was usually greeted with a bashful smile, a nod and then the tiny tots would dash over to the racks. This is when the food models really came in handy. I asked one girl if she recognized the vegetables I had displayed or which ones she liked. I found out she LOVED broccoli and couldn’t get enough of baby carrots. Bell peppers weren’t her favorite but the squishy bell pepper rings were fun to play with!

The main take-away I had from the evening at Glenmont was that people generally like to talk with you. People can be at the food pantry for all different reasons but talking about vegetables doesn’t have to put them on guard. I gained a greater understanding for the variety of people Manna serves, from all different ethnic backgrounds and ages. Being an intern at Manna was a very special and unique rotation. I hope that Manna can continue offering nutrition education to the clients they serve!

Jackie, dietetic intern from the University of Maryland

Intern Reflection: Beyond the Box

Receiving a closed box full of food can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for participants. Exciting because it feels like you’re receiving a present—knowing there are some quality products inside. And nerve-wracking if there are dietary restrictions and strong personal preferences you live by. What items go in a box matters and impacts how participants can get the most out of the food provided. That’s where Jenna, a registered dietitian and Manna’s program director, along with dietetic interns play a key role in preparing boxes.

Introducing special closed boxes!

I learned how a Manna participant will receive a box full of core food groups like, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy (shelf stable), and some treats. From time to time, there are participants who communicate having special dietary needs. It takes knowing your way around the warehouse, some nutrition knowledge, and a lot of attention to detail to meet the needs for the special boxes and ensure anyone and everyone is receiving a box of nourishing items.

What I did

Before participants pick up their boxes, Manna’s Participant Services staff notifies Jenna regarding who needs a special closed box and specific dietary restrictions and preferences. After some brief instructions, Jenna sent Jackie (another dietary intern) and me into the warehouse to piece together multiple “D boxes” (diabetic) with a vegan preference. Once we select our box, secure the bottom, and properly label the top and sides, we’re ready to go. Jackie and I followed Jenna’s box packing guidelines and walked around the warehouse finding appropriate items. We review each item’s label and ingredients in order to ensure it is appropriate.

Isabelle (left) and Jackie, UMD Dietetic Interns

What I learned

Attention to detail is everything! When packing these special boxes, there are dietary restrictions and preferences to think about, plus being mindful of taste, textures, and acceptability. Through this task, I learned that practice makes perfect. When packing for the first time, I rushed through the task without slowing down and thinking about those mindful questions: will this item taste good with another item in here? Was I thorough in checking the ingredients? Is this particular item too complicated to use? I made mistakes and missed items. But I’m thankful to Jenna taking the time to check my work and teach me what I was doing well and what I was missing. By the third time packing boxes, I had a better handle of mindfulness and was able to pack a successful box with minimal supervision.  Practice makes perfect and mindfulness is one of those skills that requires us to think outside the box.

Manna Food Center Announces a Temporary Waiver on Income Requirements

January 11, 2019

Media Contact
Michelle Whittaker

Manna Food Center Announces a Temporary Waiver on Income Requirements for Montgomery County Residents Impacted by the Federal Government Shutdown

Increased Need for Food Assistance Anticipated as Shutdown Enters Third Week

(Gaithersburg, Maryland) – Manna Food Center (Manna) is temporarily waiving income requirements to provide food to any Montgomery County resident impacted by the Federal Government Shutdown. Residents are encouraged to contact Manna as soon as possible to begin receiving food through regular distribution channels.

“Our doors are open and we are ready to welcome all residents in need,” said Jackie DeCarlo, chief executive officer at Manna Food Center. “We recognize that many government employees, contractors, and service industry employees that support our Federal agencies are experiencing financial strain from the shutdown. We are extending our services to individuals and families as a way to lighten the burden and give residents hope in these uncertain times.”

Montgomery County residents can request food assistance by contact Manna at 301-424-1130. Participants will be provided with approximately 60 pounds of food every 30 days. Manna offers several food pickup locations on specific days during the week and every Monday thru Friday at Manna’s warehouse (9311 Gaither Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20877).

DeCarlo notes that County agencies, elected officials, and non-profits are stepping up to meet the growing financial need. Manna’s Community Food Rescue program is one of several groups providing food for Councilmember Tom Hucker’s community potluck being held tonight. Multiple food runners will be picking up food from area restaurants to deliver to the potluck.

Residents interested in supporting Manna’s extended services should visit mannafood.org for volunteer or giving opportunities.


March 28: Heroes Against Hunger Awards Reception

You Are Invited! 

Heroes Against Hunger Annual Awards Reception 

Thursday, March 28th from 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Canopy by Hilton at Pike & Rose  

Manna Food Center’s annual Heroes Against Hunger Awards Reception honors leaders in our community who are making a difference in the fight against hunger.

As a grass-roots organization, Manna only has one signature event a year, so you won’t want to miss it! The evening will feature a lovely rooftop networking reception, beautiful hors d’oeuvre spread, dynamic silent auction and a short, meaningful program.

Come celebrate the successes of the past year and hear about Manna’s exciting plans for the future.

Get your tickets today!

Support this event with a sponsorship or contribute to our Silent Auction!  Please contact Mardia@mannafood.org for details.

January 19 & 20: MLK Jr. Service Weekend Food Drive

Volunteers sought to help staff a Food Drive during “MLK Jr. Service Weekend Food Drive” over the weekend of January 19th and 20th for Manna Food Center. 

We greatly appreciate you taking the time to volunteer and helping those at risk of hunger in Montgomery County.

WHERE: Select Giant Stores throughout Montgomery County (see participating stores)

WHEN: January 19th and 20th, 2019

TIME: Shifts are 9am-12pm and 12pm-3pm on Saturday and Sunday.

WHAT: Volunteers will help promote the food drive at Giant Grocery Stores and collect food donations from customers.

Find a Giant Near You! Use the map below to find a Giant store participating in our food drive.


Please note: Due to the fact that we will not have a Manna Staff person at every shift, this opportunity cannot be used to fulfill court ordered hours.

Due to limited space, we limit the number of volunteers – at any one time – to a maximum of 3 (including the adult supervisor). At least one adult supervisor (21 or older) needs to be present at all times. Students can earn Student Service Learning (SSL) hours.

We appreciate your service, as do the thousands we feed, that are counting on you to collect food at the store you have “adopted.”  Please click on the link below for more information and to sign up for a shift.


Can’t volunteer? You can help by shopping and donating at a participating store.


Scouting for Food – November 10

Please help the Boy Scouts of Troop 291 as we participate in the annual Scouting for Food Drive.

We ask that you fill this bag (please use more bags if necessary) with non-perishable food items (such as canned fruits or vegetables, pasta, and cereal—no glass please!) and leave it on your porch on Saturday, November 10th by 8:30 a.m. 

Troop 291 will pick it up and distribute it to the Manna Food Center.

As you can imagine in these tough economic times, we are under tremendous pressure to help feed thousands of families in Montgomery County.  Last year, Manna provided food to an average of 3,700 households each month.  Here are the ways Manna fights hunger in the community:

  • Manna Food Center collects and distributes more than 34 million pounds of food annually in Montgomery County.
  • Manna Food Center provides food to dozens of Montgomery County homeless shelters, soup kitchens, group homes and low- income housing areas.
  • Manna provides food to more than 9,500 families a year and distributes bags of healthy food to 2,800 elementary school children each week during the school year. Visit mannafood.org to learn more.

Your Contribution will make a difference in lives of your neighbors who are experiencing hunger in Montgomery County!

We ask that you please give generously, as the Scouting for Food Drive goes a long way towards meeting Manna Food Center’s commitment to the people in Montgomery County.

For questions, contact:  Alyssa Alban- 703-928-4397

Intern Reflection: Manna Keeps Their Community Healthy

Prior to my two-week rotation at Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland, I thought all food banks were the same. From what I’d seen in the past, they handed out canned goods, bags of rice, and ramen. That belief was permanently changed after my first hour at Manna. I began the day sorting huge crates of fresh produce from local farmers; potatoes, cucumbers, oranges, apples, strawberries, assorted greens, mangos, and much more. I discovered almost a dozen varieties of eggplant, squash, and tomatoes that I had no idea existed. Once the boxes were overflowing with colorful fruits and vegetables, it was time to begin distributing food to participants. While helping recipients load their food into cars, I was able to learn how critical the need is and how thankful people are to have this valuable resource in their community.

Along with a box of fruits and vegetables, participants leave Manna with a bag of frozen meat, a choice of bread items, and one “closed box” containing shelf-stable items. The closed box given to every participant doesn’t just contain a handful of randomly selected cans, but is composed of four to six cans of vegetables, one to three cans of fruit, at least one can of meat protein, multiple cans of beans or nuts, three containers of grains, bonuses such as soup, peanut butter, and other pantry staples like olive oil and mayonnaise. Each box contains around twenty items, which can be tailored for individual participants with particular nutrition needs. For example, patients with diabetes are given boxes containing items with less simple sugar, while vegetarian participants are given boxes that do not contain meat products.

During our time at Manna Food Center, fellow University of Maryland Dietetic Intern Stephanie Jean and I shadowed Registered Dietitian Jenna Umbriac and learned about how she uses her dietetics experience and education in her role as the Director of Programs & Policy. Jenna explained to us that the purpose of this organization is to fight hunger, reduce food waste, and improve health outcomes. We’ve kept that purpose in mind throughout the last two weeks, while we created tools and guides for Manna volunteers, staff, and participants.

We constructed new guides to help staff build food boxes for participants following a Kosher diet, as well as participants with diabetes who are following a vegetarian diet. We also made alterations to the vegetarian guides with instructions on how to make boxes fit a vegan diet. These guides will help expand the options for participants with specific dietary needs while saving staff and volunteer time constructing special boxes. We also designed and produced a Volunteer Produce ID Manual, which includes photos and names of many different varieties of fruit and vegetables, as well as information and recipes for Manna participants. This valuable resource will help volunteers identify unfamiliar produce, either by name or by image, and provide box recipients with tips for storage, preparation, and preservation, as well as recipes and nutrition facts. These tools will help reduce food waste and hunger, by providing participants with the knowledge and resources to incorporate the foods they receive into their diet, as well as improve health outcomes, by including items that fit with individual dietary needs.

Since arriving at Manna I’ve gained a sincere appreciation for the vital role of food assistance organizations, like Manna, play in helping food-insecure individuals. Manna Food Center keeps their community healthy, not hungry, and I’m proud to have been a part of that.

Community Kitchen Open House Leaves Attendees Nourished and Fired Up

On September 12th we welcomed current and potential East County partners to our Community Kitchen Open House at Silver Spring United Methodist Church in Four Corners to hear about the adult classes we’re planning this Fall. Our 2 six-week class series, A Taste of African Heritage and A Taste of Latin Heritage, are designed to help participants learn health and nutrition through cooking and eating traditional and cultural foods in more nourishing ways.

Open House attendees included a past donor and representatives from organizations like Capital Area Food Bank, The Charles Koiner Center for Urban Farming, Montgomery County Food Council, Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, and Independence Now.

I facilitated a food demo and tasting of one of my favorite recipes from the curriculum, Pineapple, Mango and Papaya After-Chop Fruit Salad. The burst of flavors and ease of preparation inspired all to want to make this healthy dessert at home. Attendees also enjoyed samples of a Black Bean and Avocado Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette that will be part of the 6-week classes.

Everyone left the Open House nourished and fired up to help Manna spread the word within their networks about upcoming classes. It was wonderful to see organizations come together in the shared interest of community food education. I look forward to bringing partners together again in the Community Kitchen in the future!

Registration is now open for classes. A Taste of African Heritage runs Tuesdays, 2-4 pm, October 9 – November 13 and A Taste of Latin Heritage runs Thursdays, 2-4 pm, November 8 – December 20 (except November 22). Participants in the classes must be eligible to receive Manna Food Center services. To register, contact Madea Allen, Community Education Program Manager at madea@mannafood.org.

Immigration Status as a Social Determinant of Health – Focus On: Food Insecurity

Manna was proud to contribute to the Consumer Health Foundation’s recent briefing paper “Immigration Status as a Social Determinant of Health – Focus On: Food Insecurity”. CHF and their partners are presenting a series of briefing papers to explore immigration as it relates to health, hunger and poverty, and worker’s issues. This paper was a joint effort between the Food Research & Action Center, D.C. Hunger Solutions and Maryland Hunger Solutions.  Manna’s Director of Programs, Jenna Umbriac, and former outreach worker, Maria Chavez, provided input regarding Manna’s efforts to provide SNAP application assistance and the challenges faced by many immigrants and their families when it comes to food access.

“Despite the compelling research demonstrating the positive contributions immigrants make to the economic and social fabric of the United States, false narratives disparaging immigrants are prevalent and too often take root in restrictive policies aimed at immigrants. These false narratives…heighten the struggles immigrant households face in terms of addressing social determinants of health, including access to a consistent healthy, nutritious diet and willingness to participate in federal nutrition programs.”

This brief examines barriers and opportunities in the region to improving the food security and the health of immigrant households: http://www.consumerhealthfdn.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/SDOH_BriefingPaper_FoodInsecurity.pdf


A Dietetic Intern’s Experience at Manna

Cooking Up Healthy Habits with Montgomery County’s Youth

Have you ever wanted to learn something new but not have the resources to start?  Whether it’s learning a new subject, picking up a new hobby, or developing a new skill, it’s essential to have a strong knowledge base, the right equipment, and access to resources in order to be successful.

For the children of Montgomery County, learning new skills in nutrition, such as cooking, food safety, and healthy eating habits, is possible with the help of “Manny”, Manna Food Center’s commercial kitchen on wheels. Every day, Manny travels from school to school providing nutrition education to students who qualify for free or discounted school lunches. Over a series of 8 weeks, students are able to learn the ins-and-outs of how to choose healthy, nutritious food options, how to cook these food options, and how to turn their actions into sustainable, healthy habits for a lifetime.

This past week, I had the opportunity to assist Manna’s Mobile Kitchen Program Coordinator in presenting the “Small Bites” lesson plan to the students of Germantown Elementary. Following the Common Threads nutrition education curriculum, students were able to get hands-on with prepping and cooking the recipe of the day – seasoned, roasted cauliflower. They had a blast peeling apart bite-sized pieces of cauliflower off of its stalk, tossing it with oil, pepper, and a pinch of salt, and watching it roast in the oven. When it came time to the taste test, the kids couldn’t get enough of it! Nearly every one of the students reported loving the recipe, stating that they enjoyed the spiciness of the ground pepper and that they were surprised by its delicious flavor. To my surprise, students were asking for seconds, thirds, and even a plate to go, leaving only scraps of the 4 heads of cauliflower behind. When asked if they would plan to cook this recipe again, a unanimous “YES!” rang throughout the bus. It’s safe to say, the lesson plan was a success.

Upon reflection, I couldn’t believe how big of an impact this experience had on these students. With only a few heads of cauliflower, three simple household ingredients, and a bowl, these kids were able to develop a healthy and nutritious meal option – with adult supervision of course– and have fun doing it! Based on the amount of enthusiasm portrayed during class, I have no doubt that these kids will be showing off their newly found skills to their friends and family, further helping spread the word of how delicious healthy and nutritious foods can be.

-Becky Handley
Dietetic Intern
University of Maryland


A Dietetic Intern’s Experience at Manna

While beginning my community rotation at Manna Food Center I had no idea what to expect for the 2-week duration we had planned with my dietetic internship. Unlike most other dietetic interns, I had never stepped foot in a warehouse before, let alone volunteered at a food bank.  After my first day in the warehouse, it was safe to say that I was nothing short of impressed and eager to return for the remaining days.

Manna is unlike most food banks for many reasons. While its singular mission to eliminate hunger and food insecurity can be parallel to other organizations, it goes above and beyond to also educate the county on nutrition and healthy eating. In the past year, Manna created a mobile kitchen to bring nutrition education to its community members. Also known as, “Manny,” Manna’s mobile kitchen and Pop-up-Pantry allows community members to conveniently benefit from Manna’s education programs and traveling pantry. One of my tasks during my two weeks here was to assist in teaching and prepping classes to elementary kids on Manny. While it was exciting and new to be on a mobile kitchen, it was even more inspiring to see how eager the children in the class were to try new vegetables and learn about healthy eating!

Aside from my wonderful experience with Manny, I also learned about other great programs Manna has created. For example, while more than 55,000 students in Montgomery County Public Schools are part of households that qualify for Free or Reduced Meals, Manna has created a solution to fight food insecurity geared towards these children. Manna Smart Sacks provides weekend meals to over 2,800 children to bridge the weekend gap when they can’t rely on school meals. Smart Sack bags include whole grains, low sodium canned vegetables, lean meats, and healthier snack options so the children can enjoy their weekends without the worry of receiving adequate nutrition.

I also was fortunate to participate in a meeting with Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to see how Manna can partner with them since both programs have similar goals of nutrition education to the community. It was informative and incredible to witness two different organizations make time out of their busy schedules to meet and help one another due to the fact that they have the same goal: to support and educate the community.  I also was able to help volunteer in the warehouse by sorting produce boxes and helped distribute boxes to families when they arrived. Being both behind the scenes of packing the boxes and in front of the scenes distributing them was inspirational because I realized the impact I was making on these families and how grateful they were for this organization. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my dietetic internship!

Overall, I think Manna is an amazing organization that will continue to expand and impact the lives of families in Montgomery County. This food center has set very high expectations for all other food centers that I will visit in the future. I am thankful for the amazing staff and volunteers that I was honored to meet and work with during my time here.

-Melissa Talley
Dietetic Intern
University of Maryland

Manna Food Center Honors “Heroes Against Hunger” and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett

Manna Food Center Honors “Heroes Against Hunger” and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett

Organization Marks 35th Year of Fighting Hunger

BETHESDA, MD—Marking its 35th year of fighting hunger in Montgomery County, Manna Food Center announced today it has honored Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett with a legacy award for his commitment to supporting the organization’s mission and strengthening the social safety net for county residents.

(Left to right) Manna Food Center CEO, Jackie DeCarlo; Legacy Award winner, Hon. Isiah Leggett; and Manna Food Center Board Chair, Selena Singleton.

“As Manna has worked to make Montgomery County hunger-free we have had a strong champion in County Executive Isiah ‘Ike’ Leggett, who has never forgotten his roots in the hardscrabble poverty of a then-segregated Louisiana,” said Jackie DeCarlo, Manna’s chief executive officer, at an awards reception held in Silver Spring at The Fillmore. “Mr. Leggett has focused on making sure that every part of our community has a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. His priorities and approaches are a role model to all of us who want a county where all live in dignity.”


Manna, the largest food assistance organization in Montgomery County, also named its 2018 Heroes Against Hunger award recipients, which include: Mead Family Foundation as Community Partner of the Year; Social & Scientific Systems, Inc. as Corporate Partner of the Year; and Ellen Teller of Food Research & Action Center, as Individual Hero of the Year.


“Ending hunger is not something we can do alone,” said DeCarlo. “We are grateful to all of our partners for their passion, dedication and commitment to fighting hunger. Our vision for the future is one where hunger no longer exists—and together we can achieve this goal.”


During the reception, Manna’s innovative programs and services were on display, including “Manny” – the nickname for Manna’s Mobile Kitchen and Pop-up Pantry. Manny is a transformed school bus that acts as a cooking and nutrition classroom for children and adults, and food pantry for communities with limited food access.


The event caterer, Corcoran Caterers, is a member of Manna’s Community Food Network. Community Food Rescue employs an innovative web tool and mobile app to match surplus food with hunger relief organizations, in real-time.

(Left to right) Jeff Miller of Jeff Miller Consulting Alliance (former Manna Food Center board member); Social & Scientific Systems, Inc. President & CEO, Kevin Beverly; Manna CEO, Jackie DeCarlo; Food Research and Action Center Director of Government Affairs, Ellen Teller; Manna Board Chair, Selena Singleton; and Mead Family Foundation board member, Stephen Mead.


The Mead Family Foundation was honored for its role as a lead funder and catalyst for improving food access, education and security in Montgomery County and for strengthening nonprofit partnerships and collaborations around such efforts. The foundation supported Manna and many food security nonprofits in its history. Recently, the Mead Family Foundation provided direct service support, running a two-year Mini-Grants Program to build agencies’ capacity to receive, store and serve additional food rescued through Manna’s Community Food Rescue network.


Social & Scientific Systems, Inc., which focuses on public health in this region and around the world, received its award for supporting Manna’s Smart Sacks program. The company’s staff team currently packs 70 bags a week for Greencastle Elementary, plus an additional 150 bags a week at Kemp Mill Elementary school in a weekend bag collaborative with Kids In Need Distributors (or KIND). Over the course of the year, Social & Scientific Systems staff will pack approximately 8,800 weekend bags to combat childhood hunger in our community.


Award recipient Ellen Teller is the director of governmental affairs at Food Research & Action Center. An expert in anti-hunger policy work, Teller has worked closely with organizations and advocates across the nation, including Maryland and Montgomery County, fighting to strengthen anti‐hunger programs. She has also served her local community as member of Manna’s Board of Directors and Advocacy Task Force.


Last month, Manna’s CEO DeCarlo was awarded Stop Hunger’s 2018 Women Stop Hunger Award at a ceremony in Paris, France. Under DeCarlo’s leadership, the agency has adopted a comprehensive approach to ending hunger through innovation, experimentation and community engagement. Stop Hunger is a global network of organizations working for a hunger-free world. The Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, headquartered in Gaithersburg, nominated DeCarlo for this award.

Poverty and the Cycle of Hunger Locally, Nationally, and/or Globally

This past month I had the pleasure to present to the class of the Women’s Studies class WS101 at Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus. We discussed the prevalence of food insecurity in Montgomery County and focused on how disparities among women in Montgomery County in turn negatively impacts their health.


In addition to the presentation, the students also supported Manna in packing Smart Sacks bags for JoAnn Leleck at Broad Acres Elementary School. WS101 students also wrote Valentine’s Day cards and put in little treat bags for students as a surprise. Afterwards, students wrote reflections on the presentation and Smart Sacks packing project. One student, Henry Obioma Ukeje, provided us his very powerful words on poverty and the cycles of hunger. Please read his reflections on our Manna blog online.

Poverty and the Cycle of Hunger Locally, Nationally, and/or Globally

By: Henry Obioma Ukeje

Across the many societies in the globe, women experience issues that vary greatly in scope.  It does not require one to be female to take a Women’s Studies course; an in-depth understanding of what it takes to be a woman living in times of great economic strife and hardships is important. This course has opened my eyes to the severity of the many issues that accost women, especially poverty. The architects of this course engineered its relevance to address issues that face women from all backgrounds and their daily struggles to overcome these challenges, even in the midst of widespread gender inequalities.

Poverty and hunger are cyclical in nature. This can be best illustrated by the sad fact that a child born out of poverty is more likely to spend his/her entire life in poverty, and worse still, will probably raise his/her children in poverty. Politicians do so little to alleviate this, but instead uses poverty to propagate their selfish agendas. Education, which has become a basic need, is the only effective tool to end this vicious cycle of poverty and hunger, but it is still a luxury to many people. Though women and girls make up more than half of the world’s population, men are typically more educated than women, which shows how lack of access to education is tool to discriminate against and disempower women.

If women and girls were given equal opportunities as their male counterparts to access education, perhaps then, the cycle of poverty would end. Michele Sullivan, a women’s rights activist, states that, “If you help a girl, you help the family and the village and the society.”  This is because unlike men, women spend a huge fraction of their income buying food and other necessities; for them, the priority is often caring for their families and communities. More published research also shows that the higher a woman rises in her level of education, the more likely she will be to feed her child better, thus the education of women has a direct impact on malnutrition and child mortality rates. (Sue-Lynn Moses)

Local food banks are of great importance to our societies. We live in societies that are in constant ignorance of the people living around us. People imagine, “If I am okay, then everybody else is,” but in reality, the neighbor living in the next block might be going without food for days. Manna Food Center plays a very important role in ensuring that those underprivileged and neglected persons can also get food and not suffer in hunger.

Women and Gender studies instills the spirit of helping within our level of ability and fighting against gender-based discrimination and other inequalities that women face. We should be our own activists, so that we can help raise each other’s standards and perpetuate a society where no one drowns in the cycle of hunger due to their economic status. Helping others in the society creates a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, especially when you see the joy on faces of those who have received food donations that will help to sustain them.

The relationship between women and food, symbolically illustrated by the stuffing of pantry sacks (a “care”-type role typically performed by women), helps us understand how group-based marginalization has been propagated in the society, as well as the stigma associated with the experience of poverty. This act clearly demonstrates the themes our course has been studying: the historical production of sexual difference and the intersection of gender with other social forces. This course has inspired in me the role of being a social actor, so that that I can help to uphold the rights of women and girls. Together, we can end the cycle of hunger in society.


Ayu Saraswati, Barbara Shaw, and Heather Relihann. Introduction to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Joe McCarthy. Educating Girls is the Key to Ending Poverty. Aug 7, 2017. Retrieved from:

*Special thanks to the class of WS101 at Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver Spring, Professor Esther Schwartz-Mckinzie, and Lucy Vitaliti, Coordinator of the Office of Volunteerism and Service Learning, in providing Manna this opportunity to share our knowledge and engage our community to end hunger.

-Karena Kuo, Program Manager, Smart Sacks

Jackie DeCarlo, CEO Wins Global Women Stop Hunger Award

Jackie DeCarlo, chief executive officer of Manna Food Center, Montgomery County’s largest food assistance organization, was awarded Stop Hunger’s 2018 Women Stop Hunger Award at a ceremony in Paris, France on March 13.

For 30 years, Manna served as a traditional social service agency in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., near the Sodexo USA headquarters. Under Jackie’s vision and leadership, the agency has committed to a holistic, systemic approach to unleashing the power of community connections, through innovative use of technology, justice-minded initiatives aimed at addressing root causes of hunger, and bold experimentation.

(Left to right) Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation’s Executive Director, Shondra Jenkins; Sodexo’s SVP & Chief Human Resources Officer, Gerri Mason Hall; Manna Food Center’s CEO, Jackie DeCarlo; Sodexo’s SVP Corporate Responsibility & Global Chief Diversity Officer, Rohini Anand; and Sodexo’s Group General Counsel, Robert Stern. 

“In Montgomery County, MD, which is one of the richest counties in our state, one in three schoolchildren are food insecure,” said DeCarlo. “We are so pleased to receive this award, which will enable us to expand our Mobile Kitchen & Pop-Up Pantry so we can provide kids with fresh fruit and vegetables after school.”

Montgomery County’s Food Security Plan suggests that financial barriers, transportation and a lack of food preparation knowledge are common factors that prevent Montgomery County families from eating a healthful diet. Seventy percent of county adults do not meet the recommended number of daily vegetable servings. Nicknamed “Manny,” Manna’s mobile kitchen program is designed to tackle two barriers at once by bringing nutritious foods and cooking skills to the community. This school year, Manny began offering educational opportunities to some of the 30,000 elementary school students in the Montgomery County Public Schools eligible for free and reduced meals. This culinary classroom on wheels is an innovative solution to increase access to nutrition education and nutritious foods in Montgomery County.

The second annual Women Stop Hunger Awards recognize a woman or group of women on the front lines of fighting hunger in their community through programs led by and for women. All recipients were chosen based on a number of criteria including whether their initiatives are innovative, scalable, impactful, and target communities with the greatest need.

(Left to right) Sodexo’s SVP Corporate Responsibility & Global Chief Diversity Officer, Rohini Anand, with awardees Elizandra Cerqueira, Nigest Haile Goshu, Manna Food Center’s Jackie DeCarlo, Nonhlanhla Joye, Brigitte Miché, and Sophie Bellon, Chairwoman of the Sodexo Board of Directors.

With a staff that is 61 percent female, Manna is supported by a strong coalition of female Board members and volunteers and ambitious new projects like “Manny” are changing the way hunger is addressed in the community.

“Women can be the key to fighting hunger in communities around the globe, and Jackie DeCarlo exemplifies that potential,” said Shondra B. Jenkins, executive director of the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation. “Stop Hunger is proud to honor Jackie, and confident that Manna Food Center will not only turn this award into food for Montgomery County children who experience hunger today, but also provide them with the culinary and nutrition education skills that will make them less likely to experience hunger tomorrow.”

Stop Hunger is a global network of non-profit organizations working for a hunger-free world. The Stop Hunger Awards presented on March 13 were part of the organization’s annual fundraising dinner that brings together more than 500 donors, partners, volunteers and representatives of local and international associations. Other recipients of the 2018 Women Stop Hunger Award were Nonhlanhla Joye of Umgibe Farming Organics & Training Institute in South Africa, Nigest Haile Goshu of the Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) in Ethiopia, Elizandra Cerqueira with Paraisópolis Women’s Association in Brazil, and Brigitte Miché of Restos du Cœur in France.

“I am humbled to be included with such dedicated women from all over the world doing remarkable work to enhance economic, social, and environmental development and feed families who experience hunger in their communities,” said DeCarlo. “Stop Hunger should be commended for supporting women’s empowerment and striving to ensure the basic needs of all people are met, and we at Manna Food Center will certainly use this award to further that goal.”

Manna Food Center’s Fight Against Childhood Hunger by Manna Interns

Manna Food Center’s Fight Against Childhood Hunger


By: Danielle Ferguson and Danny Turner (Manna Dietetic Interns)


Childhood hunger is something that hits deep in the heart of our society. According to the Frontline documentary Poor Kids, there are 14 million children currently living in poverty in the United States. Some of these children don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or if they will have a place to live the next day. This film follows the story of several families each struggling to find a way to afford basic everyday needs. As future Registered Dietitians, we know that working to improve health and wellbeing through nutrition in our community is incredibly important. It was heartbreaking to find out how widespread and severe childhood hunger is. Thankfully there are organizations like Manna that are working ceaselessly to provide food to those in need. Having the opportunity to be a part of Manna for two weeks, we have experienced how dedicated they are to ending hunger in Montgomery County, especially for the children that live here.


Manna’s mission is the create a hunger free zone in Montgomery County and their vision for the future is “nothing less than food security for all – where hunger no longer exists, as residents are self-sufficient and providing for themselves.” We have seen the work that the employees, volunteers, and community contribute every day through food sorting, packing, cleaning, and distributing to get it to those who need it most. One of our favorite projects Manna currently operates is the Smart Snacks program for the children in the local community. Smart Sacks provides bags of food to over 2,800 children each week to bridge the weekend gap when they can’t rely on school provided meals. The bags include whole grains, low sodium canned vegetables, lean meats, and healthier snack options so that these children can enjoy their weekends without worrying so much about their meals. We can all agree that children should never have to worry about when their next meal will be.


Combating hunger throughout the country is a large task, but an attainable one that begins with small steps. The best way to start is looking at ways you can help in your own community, and there are a lot of ways to contribute to the cause of ending hunger in Montgomery County. The Smart Sacks program is just one facet of Manna, and they are always in need of helping hands to carry out their everyday work. If you feel like you want to contribute to Manna’s mission, but aren’t quite sure where to start, check out this list of things Manna needs most!


Here are some ways that YOU can help:


  1. Donate money – As a non-profit, Manna relies largely on charitable donations to stay in operation
  2. Volunteer – Manna recruits both individuals and groups as volunteers
  3. Donate Food – Click here to find out which types of food are the most helpful to donate

Closing the Hunger Gap

Jamal Ray, Manna’s Warehouse Manager

Jamal here. This fall, Angela Whitmal (our Senior Director of Administration and Participant Services) and I traveled to Tacoma, Washington to attend the Closing the Hunger Gap Conference. The goal of this conference is to move hunger relief organizations toward strategies that promote social justice and address the root causes of hunger, using the lens of racial and economic equity.

When I first went to Tacoma I was narrow-minded regarding some of our programs here at Manna, but, while away, I learned that ignorance is not bliss–especially if you want to truly cure the ails of a society where the have-nots continue to get less and the haves continue to get more.

Our view in Tacoma

As I listened to the different speakers talk about the same battles they face in their states, cities, towns that I fight here in Montgomery County, I realized there are a lot of agencies trying to do the right thing but facing the same stumbling blocks: lack of money, lack of man power and a lack of time to get all they want to do get done and still have time for their own lives. I listened to people come up with ideas that we are currently implementing. Which was very encouraging as well as a having a sense of pride, knowing were heading in the right direction.


There was a conversation started about whether it was ethically right to receive monies from Walmart, a cooperation notorious for not paying its store employees enough money to sustain their families. As the Warehouse Manager, I saw myself wanting the food they donate because the food was either going to a land fill or to a needy family, but this was something I never considered. As a youth of the 80s, and the crack epidemic, I watched a lot of young men sell drugs to line their pockets as well as provide for their families, but am I any different then the parent turning the blind eye so bills can get paid while at the same time taking out an insurance policy on my child so in case of death we can now get out the ghetto?


A recurring phrase used was Social Justice. Are we doing enough to help end the cycle that causes families to need our services, or are we part of the cycle of poverty and hunger another part of the machine that like the pharmaceutical / health care industry instead of teaching people how to better their lives through diet and exercise we offer a drug that seems to address the problem while instead causing several others. Are we a placebo? Are we helping to end hunger or continuing the cycle?


I believe now that we do have a larger responsibility to the public then just feeding them. We do need to educate helping those that might not know about the other resources in MoCo, besides Manna Food Center, by putting them in contact with those that can help them get job training, English classes, educational funding, child care and health care if needed as well as many others.


The Social Justice piece encompasses a lot of things in my eyes seeing to the needs of those that don’t have the courage, strength, knowledge, monies to get the help they need to live the life we all deserve. And I believe we at Manna do this daily:

  • The drivers get up at the crack of dawn to go out to the stores, farmers markets, synagogues, churches or where ever there is food to be picked up to make sure that it is brought back here and sorted and distributed by volunteers and employees working together to make sure people like their own family get the best.
  • A nutrition team helps to draft guidelines and programs advising us and the public on healthier food choices so that those foods they eat aren’t 0 calorie’s but nutritious so they can perform the duties on their jobs and in the class rooms to advance to get them out of the cycle of poverty.
  • The development team drafts up grants while also stirring the hearts and minds of donors that might not ever see the people they help, retrieving monies from grants and funds to help pay for the day to day up keep of the facility.
  • The volunteer coordinator who helps to bring in a steady supply of help that works for no more than the knowledge of that but for the grace of God there goes I.
  • A referral office that takes calls for both requests and complaints ensuring that the participant feels like more than another hand out, but their voice is heard like the voice at the Wegmans complaining about the Organic Strawberries being too bruised.

We can do more, and we will do more, because like those 600+ I walked and talked with in Tacoma: we care, and the job will get done.

Tacoma, Washington


If this is a conversation you want to join, consider attending one of our monthly Breaking Bread sessions. Manna creates space and intentional conversations to nurture dialogue around critical issues, such as race, class, and a culture of dependency, that create or contribute to hunger in our community. We hope you will join the conversation on the third Wednesday of every month from 4 – 5:30pm at Manna Food Center, 9311 Gaither Rd., Gaithersburg MD 20895. Questions? Contact Angela Whitmal at 240-268-2527 or angela@mannafood.org.




Family Meals Month Means Chips? Why not!

Lindsey here. September marks Family Meals Month, encouraging people to set aside time at least a few days a week to convene the family around a home-cooked meal. Research shows that when families eat together, it’s better for kids’–and parents’–emotional well-being, performance, and diet.

The simplest way to ensure a nourishing meal is to step back and look at the whole plate: do the foods on it have at least three (naturally-occurring) colors? A color-filled plate is an easy way to determine you’re providing an array of vitamins and minerals.

What if I told you that I witnessed 16 kids, ages 8-10, gobble up raw peppers, avocado, and black beans and come back for third helpings? It happened this summer on Manny the Mobile Kitchen.

Too little time?

Get kids to help. They can stir, grate, pour, mix, tear, wash, toss, set the table, and clean up as you go along.

Worried about picky eaters?

Taking a little something familiar (like a low-salt tortilla chip) is a great way for kids to try new flavors and textures. It certainly worked with this simple, wholesome recipe from Common Threads.

Too much work?

Make a taco bar! Everyone can pile this wholesome salsa onto their chicken, fish, whole-grain tortilla, or brown rice (hint: instant brown rice cooks perfectly and helps weeknights). Each eater customizes, they can sprinkle on their own scallions, shredded cheese, plain yogurt, chili flakes, etc. That way, each person at the table can decide which foods they want touching.


Prioritize time together, and keep meals happy. Use the time to focus on the positive, and what interests kids. Include them in discussions about your community, get their take on the news. If you’re stuck, here’s a few ideas:

  • If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?
  • If we could go anywhere you wanted on vacation, where would you choose? Why?
  • When do you feel the most proud of who you are?

Bon appetit!

Black Bean Mango Salsa

from Common Threads, kid approved!
Lindsey’s trickfrozen mango is ripe, affordable, and pre-chopped

  • 15 ounces black beans
  • 1 mango
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/3 red onion
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 lime
  • 1 large avocado
1. Drain the can of black beans
2. Peel the mango and chop it along with the bell pepper and red onion
3. Add freshly chopped ingredients to the black beans
4. Chop the bunch of cilantro and add to top of mixture
5. Squeeze the two limes over the mixing bowl
6. Cut the large avocado into small pieces and mix into the mixing bowl
7. Serve the black bean mango salsa and enjoy!

Kids Love Their Veggies at Gaithersburg Elementary

Lindsey here. Once upon a time, Manny the Mobile Kitchen was a humble school bus, toting 72 kiddos to and from school. He looked like this.

These days, this school bus is taking kids’ taste buds through the rainbow of wholesome foods.

Sixteen youth at Gaithersburg Elementary participated in the pilot program aboard our Manna Mobile Kitchen. We partnered with Common Threads to implement their program, Small Bites, an eight-day class that teaches kids the basics of nutrition in a way that integrates science experiments, reading, and math. For the second half of the class, students engage in hands-on, knife-free food prep making healthy snacks.

Dishes included Strawberry-Pineapple Agua Fresca (as an alternative to soda), Mango-Lime Yogurt Parfaits, Sneaky Green Smoothies, and Mango Salsa.

Along with a team of enthusiastic volunteers, we also integrated fitness activities and trying new foods with bell pepper tastings and seed tastings.


By far the most popular dish was our roasted cauliflower! One parent shared how she and her daughter went to the store together to purchase cauliflower after this particular class. She even got her big brother (13) to try and enjoy roasted cauliflower, too.

Manny the Mobile Kitchen will also serve as a Pop-Up Pantry to bring fresh produce to underserved neighborhoods. I hope you’ll join us for an opportunity to visit this special new addition to Manna. Climb aboard to enjoy the culinary classroom experience for yourself, plus a tasty sample, on Saturday September 16th. Details here. Hope to see you there!

Notes from our CEO

Dear Friend of Manna Food Center,

This is our September newsletter so it is natural that we are focused on back-to-school topics: another year of the Smart Sacks program providing 2,850 kids with nutritious bags of food each weekend, the arrival of our new retrofitted school bus “Manny” that will reach hungry neighbors with fresh produce and teach kids and parents skills for healthy cooking. There is a lot to be excited about as a new school year begins, and thanks to your support we are able to help students achieve.
But it is also hurricane season. Across the aisles and cubicles of Manna, teammates have been checking with those who have loved ones in Florida and the Caribbean, just as we did in August as attention was fixed on Texas and South Asia.  Recently in a staff meeting we talked about the butterfly effect, the theory that the tiny motion of butterfly wings can have a role to play in major weather events such as tornadoes –we weren’t predicting the weather!  The topic came up as we were discussing the role that Manna Food Center plays in creating a Hunger Free MoCo, noting the ripple effect of our high standards and ambitious goals.
During this season of weather-related disasters, our team is doing what we can to respond to those in need from afar, while we redouble our efforts to be of service to those in our own backyard.  We believe that if we do our best with the projects right in front of us, we are part of broader humanitarian effort.  This is not self-congratulations, it is systems-thinking, being sure to do our part.  You do your part as well by being a supporter of our work.  Thank you for making it possible for us to provide steady service here in Montgomery County, MD in the midst of unsettling events across the globe.
Ending hunger, it’s what we do,     Jackie

Four years at manna: what I forget to remember

Lindsey here. For four years I’ve worked in Nutrition Education at Manna. It’s also how long, before that, I applied for job after job, competing with more experienced colleagues who lost their careers in the Recession.


My role here is rooted in the community; I’m on-the-go to schools, senior apartments, and community centers most days of the week. My classes have grandmothers and grandchildren, veterans and students—I receive both stories and hugs.


In these four years, the Nutrition Education workshops evolve with the concerns of our community: as I hear complaints about deceptive advertisements, we develop a new “Nutrition Fact or Fiction” class. As more and more adults share their confusion over this new “prediabetic” diagnosis, we created a two-part series on habits to hinder diabetes and chronic disease. We talk about small, practical steps that make sense in a busy, budgeted lifestyle: walking and dancing with your kids, drinking fruit-infused water, purchasing wholesome foods (oats, onions, carrots) in bulk—to last beyond the week.


In a span of two days, I was reminded: people here are hungry. Participants are tired, frustrated, worried, too–that’s easier to see. Hunger is not always so visible in America, few people standing in line for food assistance appear severely underweight.


In my most recent Cooking Matters at the Store grocery tour, a participant had to sit down for the second half of the class because she was so dizzy. In conversation, I learned that she had not eaten since a bagel at breakfast—seven hours earlier—because she ran out of food at home. Over some fresh watermelon, we discussed unit prices and nutrition labels on the store’s front park bench.


The next day, a woman called to sign up for a store tour. I asked how she was doing today—a question I’ve learn to ask with patient pause in this work. She lost half of her pension when retiring for health issues, so she practices gratitude, but struggles with logistics of getting-by. She was called into work for the same time as my upcoming nutrition class. She truly considered calling out of work just to attend a class about how to stretch a grocery budget.


We hear more about hunger in the news, but in terms of numbers. It’s not “the needy”; it’s our neighbors in need. 


In these four years, I find the amazement of people who step into our warehouse never ceases–the scale of this work is often surprising. If you are able, I invite you to volunteer with Manna, even for just a day. These stories could belong to any of us.





Manna’s NEW Mobile Kitchen!

New life for a retired public school bus.

We know from Montgomery County’s Food Security Plan that families are not accessing or consuming enough vegetables.  As you likely know, vegetables really drive Nutrition Education:


Manna’s Mobile Kitchen & Pop-Up Pantry is a new program designed to tackle two barriers at once by bringing nutritious foods and cooking skills to our community. The MMK is an extension of Manna’s focus on innovative, participant-centered approaches to eliminating hunger.

The dual role as a Pop Up Pantry provides produce for families with limited food access.

Programming will encourage increased fruit and vegetable consumption, greater acceptance of new, nutritious foods, and encourage lifelong skills like math and teamwork. Our pilot program starting this July utilizes Common Threads Small Bites curriculum, which ties youth culinary skills to Common Core academic skills.

Here’s where the kids will be cooking:

Manna’s Nutrition Education Program Manager collaborated with the team to design a versatile cooking classroom.


A quarter-size oven allows us to sample roasted veggies from our Farm to Foodbank program.


A safe storage for knives at the instructor’s utility sink.


Custom tables adjust in height for youth and adult participants.


Our participants often faced transportation barriers to accessing licensed community kitchens where Manna taught classes in the past. We will travel to high-need schools and apartment complexes to teach youth, seniors, and adults at risk of food insecurity.

Upon finalizing permits and exterior wrap designs, the MMK will begin community programming in July 2017.

How can I get involved?

This innovative new program will depend on generous support from the community to fund outreach moving forward.

Corporate Sponsorship opportunities are available. Click here for details.

This school year the MMK will offer educational opportunities to some of the 30,000 elementary students in the Montgomery County Public Schools eligible for free and reduced meals. Our culinary classroom on wheels is an innovative solution to increase access to nutrition education and nutritious foods in Montgomery County.

Shocked about Sugar Shockers

Mike here, I am a Dietetic Intern completing my rotation at Manna Food Center.

One of the great things that Manna does in the community is teach nutrition education classes. I was able to participate in one of these lessons today: The class is “Sugar Shockers” and I can definitely say I was shocked. It wasn’t the content of the lesson, but the responses from participating mothers. Lindsey regularly holds this class at local elementary schools for families in the Linkages to Learning program, many of whom also participate in Smart Sacks.

The lesson detailed sugar in common foods like soft drinks, juices, and breakfast cereals. It also covered how sugar reacts in the body and what health problems can result from eating too much sugar. These aren’t new concepts in my field of study, but I realized that it’s easy to take for granted the things you know. Some of these concepts were brand new for a lot of the mothers. It was heartbreaking to see their reactions to some of the information. It was as if they had been lied to about what is healthy for their entire lives. They became very concerned about how much sugar their children have been eating every day.


One of Lindsey’s slides from our Sugar Shockers class.


Something that I thought was interesting was that nearly all of the mothers said that they thought honey was healthier than sugar. While honey may be natural and have other potential benefits, the body uses it the same way it uses sugar from a packet. Too much honey results in the same problems as too much sugar.

Questions around honey and brown sugar come up more than any other in Manna’s nutrition workshops!


We also talked about how fruit juice isn’t as healthy as eating fresh fruit because when you eat fresh fruit, you get a lot of fiber that helps make you feel full. Eating one or two oranges is plenty for most people. However, with juice, you don’t get the fiber, but you get all the sugar. One glass of orange juice may contain eight or nine oranges worth of sugar. While oranges are definitely a healthy food, eating nine oranges at once is just too much for one person. This was another concept that seemed to really upset some of the mothers. Many of their children drink multiple glasses of juice per day because parents thought the juice had equal health benefits of fruit.


Hands-on activities around added sugar help participants visualize the shocking amount of added sugar we consume.


Near the end of the lesson, we did an activity in which we read the nutrition facts label on several products and identified how many grams of sugar were in a single serving. Then we counted out how many sugar packets it takes to get that much sugar. One packet of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon, which is 4 grams of sugar. One of the mothers had a 12 ounce can of ginger ale that contained 32 grams of sugar. That’s 8 teaspoons of sugar in a single can! The World Health Organization advises the maximum daily intake for added sugar is 6 teaspoons for women, 9 teaspoons for men, and 4 teaspoons for children.

From the many questions throughout the lesson, and it was obvious that participants had received poor nutrition advice, whether from friends, family, magazines, radio, or television. This is why the nutrition education that Manna provides is so important. People want to make healthy choices, so it’s important that we help dispel the myths about nutrition and provide the information necessary to make those healthy choices.


Manna on the [Inter]national Stage

Lindsey here. While life is in full swing here at Manna’s warehouse, there have been remarkable opportunities to share Manna’s work with professionals across the country (and the world) this March.


Last week, I published a post about the 5 most interesting breakthroughs in health tips that I learned from experts at the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ conference. Check out that post here.


5 Things to Know About the Latest in Health

I have been a member of the International Association of Culinary Professional for three years now. In 1978, a group of cooking school owners and instructors, including Julia Child and Jacques Pépin, created the IACP (formerly named the Association of Cooking Schools), and in the process, they laid a foundation for food culture in America and beyond. Now IACP’s membership includes writers, photographers, stylists, bloggers, marketers, nutritionists, chefs, restaurateurs, culinary tour operators, artisan food producers, and academia.

Ellen Damaschino (left) of Cooking Matters, and Manna’s Lindsey Seegers co-present at the 39th IACP conference

Last year, I had the honor to serve as a cookbook judge for the Children, Youth, Family cookbooks submitted to the IACP’s distinguished Cookbook Awards. This year, for the 39th annual conference, I was selected as a speaker for the first evening’s workshops. See, I noticed that the allure of food and cooking united this engaging group of professionals—but who was talking about the millions around us without enough food for the week ahead?


This observation inspired my IACP colleague and I to create a workshop: Using Our Culinary Expertise For Good. Ellen Damaschino is the Program Manager of Cooking Matters, a vital program in Manna’s Nutrition Education outreach. Ellen is working on the national level, training Americorp volunteers on teaching grocery shopping and cooking skills to families living on a low-income. I covered work happening here in Montomgery County: from our own nutrition education programming, to Community Food Rescue and Farm to Foodbank.


Culinary professionals brainstorm how they can use their skills to fight hunger in their home communities.

The 3 biggest surprises from our session:

Hunger touches more lives than you might expect.

Ellen and I shared some ways that our organizations fight hunger in the community—both at the personal and the policy level. We then asked our session participants to answer some questions we posted around the room. Our participants included owners of distinguished culinary schools, chefs, writers, and representatives from big food corporations. This response surprised me the most:

Accomplished culinary professionals reveal a surprising connection to this troubling question.


People are so eager to give back, but just don’t know how.

Prior to the conference, Ellen and I surveyed the 50 attendees registered for our session about what hinders them from helping those affected by hunger. We found common, and some unexpected, themes in the responses.


It’s all about the small steps.

We found that this group of talented, accomplished, and driven colleagues were indeed eager to make a difference. We didn’t need to spend time explaining how or why hunger is simply wrong. We did find that most people are paralyzed by the notion of taking the “right” first step. So we asked our groups to brainstorm what they could do within their means and resources and availability—and sent them them off with small action steps to take home. Feel free to check out our resource guide, and consider your own inspiration to get involved.

How Can You Use Your Culinary Expertise For Good Official Resource Page

Put Your Best Fork Forward

Lindsey here. Who’s heard this before:


“I was a vegetarian… for a week.”

“I gave up soda for the New Year… for the month.”

“I’m trying to lose weight. So I’m giving up pasta for the summer.”


Healthy intentions so often take the form of cutting out an entire food group—cold turkey, if you will. If you have ever tried a diet, you know how hard it is to stick it out for the long haul. Small steps are a sustainable way to add healthy foods to our plates. Plus, recent research shows that yo-yo dieting can actually increase a woman’s risk of heart disease.


In Manna’s nutrition education classes, I like to say that a “diet” is not a thing to do, but a way of living and eating. This message aligns well with the theme of 2017’s National Nutrition Month. “Put Your Best Fork Forward” is all about how significant those small steps are over time. Small changes like adding an additional serving of vegetables, or switching out juices for water, are easier to implement daily—and improve your health over time.

Put a fork in it, suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Every bite makes a difference!


Put Your Best Fork Forward reminds us that each bite counts. Those small adjustments can add up over time.


I have the opportunity to interact with Manna’s families in our classes throughout the county. (In fact, in March, we are travelling to 17 classes!)  The question I receive every month in these community nutrition workshops is, “If so many of these boxed foods are dangerously high in sodium and sugar, why does Manna have these foods at all?” This is why our healthy wishlist is so important. The families I meet each week at the grocery store and elementary schools are also trying to take steps towards better health. But when meal funds are uncertain, unhealthy canned soups and pasta meal kits are cheap choices. Healthy pantry items like beans, brown rice, canned salmon, nuts, seeds, and spices build healthy, frugal meals.


You can help Manna’s participants put their best fork forward by encouraging your neighbors, schools, and faith communities to donate wholesome pantry items.


Wishing you good luck in your own journey of healthy eating, and spreading gratitude to the community that makes healthy eating accessible here at Manna.





5 Things to Know About the Latest in Health

Lindsey here. Last week, I was a guest speaker at the International Association of Culinary Professionals Conference in Lousiville, Kentucky. Next week, I’ll be back to share how we intertwined Manna’s work with nationwide hunger-fighting efforts.

Chatting about the microbiome with Executive Chef Richard Jones (left) and Dr. Peter Swanz (center)


At IACP, I had the opportunity to learn about the latest in health, eating, and feeding from professionals all over the globe.


Here are five fascinating takeaways from the pros

one: White flour has the nutritional value of a Q-tip.

I am always seeking a clear way to teach our families about the nutrition (or lack of) in white flour. Unfortunately, cookies, cakes, crackers, white bread, pretzels, etc. are cheap and abundant. If we’re looking to fuel our bodies for energy, focus, and wellness, white flour has little to contribute. I love this easy phrase!

two: Hunger is not a production issue. It’s economic, political, and infrastructure.

This was uttered by a grain farmer at a workshop called “Can Heritage Grains Actually Feed the World?” Of course, this question does not have a straightforward yes or no answer. However, this statement is a powerful reminder of how much capability, and responsibility, we have to feed our neighbors. By which I mean nourish our neighbors, not bombard vulnerable families with excess bakery leftovers (see number one, above).

three: Health should be more contagious than disease.

Dr. Peter Swanz, a physician and Doctor of Naturopathy, had much to share about the hottest words in food (epigenetics, nutrigenetics and the microbiome). While there were a lot of multi-syllabic science terms, health still comes down to some important basics. Dr. Swanz said: Nutrition is only one piece of our health. Make sleep, exercise, and drinking filtered water priorities, too. Exercise actually increases healthy bacteria in the gut.

four: Beware of the “Eat like me, look like me” trend.

The “Eat like me, look like me” trend can have truly dangerous health messages.

One of the most engaging workshops was about navigating nutrition on the web. Consumers are distrusting experts more and more, and research shows the public views their peers equally credible when it comes to health advice. Pete Evans, pictured here, actually had a book recalled because the Paleo food he recommended for infants was in fact lethal advice! How to spot red flags when you’re reading a health headline: is it published? is it too good to be true? is it heavy on testimonials? is there only one study to support the statement? Here is a great watchdog website to handle all those health headlines.

five: We are only 1% human.

You read that right. Our bodies are comprised of ten times more microbial cells than our own human cells. There are approximately 100 times more bacterial genes playing a role in your life than there are human genes. We are 99% bacteria! Here’s the take-home message from the latest research: to increase your microbiome diversity, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and exercise made the most difference. Organically grown or not, replacing processed food with any vegetables is the most important step.

Veggies come in all colors and flavors. This kale and citrus winter salad was my first meal in Kentucky–considered myself lucky!


Come back to the blog next week to see Manna’s good work represented in Louisville.

Fresh News on Heart Health

Lindsey here.

Did you know that February has been American Heart Health month since 1964?

You have likely observed that nutrition advice has varied in the decades from then to today, but there are some things that never change. Here are some heart-healthy refrains from our Nutrition Education classes:

  • Strive for at least 3 different colored foods at every meal
  • Make half your plate veggies, and then fruits
  • Move more (walking, dancing, taking the stairs–exercise is free!)
  • Drink water, and then drink some more
  • Frozen produce is as healthy as fresh, and sometimes much more affordable

We can’t control our genetics, but the great news is that most of the ways to protect our heart are things over which we do have control: stop smoking; sit less; move more; lessen the meats and sweets.

Here are some shots of the open boxes Manna distributed this week. Abundant color is an easy way to spot heart-healthy choices!

To learn more about heart health, check out these stress-reducing tips plus these important resources for stroke prevention.


Manna Through The Eyes of Interns

Ben and Tuesday here. I’m sure you’re probably thinking, “Wait, who?” We are dietetic interns at the University of Maryland College Park, and we’ve had the privilege to spend the past two weeks at Manna Food Center. Throughout our rotation, we have gotten to experience many different aspects of what is done at Manna. We attended Breaking Bread, created handouts, observed nutrition education sessions, researched a variety of topics, and volunteered in the warehouse.

Tuesday’s Take

I’m going to take a minute to brag about the awesome staff at Manna. It’s obvious that they all love their jobs and put their heart into their work to make life better for others in their community. They are constantly coming up with
ways to better the organization for their participants’ sakes. It’s the simple things that stood out the most to me. For example, Manna does the best they can to accommodate special food needs. They pack special vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and renal boxes to ensure that they food they are given out will actually be used by their clients. Another instance of this was when I observed a diabetes and chronic disease prevention nutrition education class. Lindsey is constantly changing her curriculum to meet the needs of the participants. She makes sure to use positive messaging that is appropriate for people of all different cultures and walks of life. All in all, I found it heartwarming and refreshing to see people so invested in the work and mission of their organization.


Ben’s Take

What I first noticed when I walked through the doors of Manna was everyone’s contagious desire to serve those in need. As we were given a tour of the warehouse, we met people who have been volunteering with Manna each week for the past several years. What keeps these volunteers coming back year after year was the visible effect fighting food insecurity had on their community. The warehouse is the primary site for the Smart Sacks initiative, a program that packs boxes with nutritious food for children who might not have another meal until school is back in session. Manna’s servitude extends beyond the warehouse with its Nutrition Education programs. The elite nutrition education professionals of Manna venture out into the community and teach topics such as chronic disease prevention, added sugars, and shopping tips and techniques.



I was able to channel this mindset of service by partaking in one of Manna’s weekly distribution days. During the first half of a distribution day, we sorted through produce and pre-prepared foods saved through the Community Food Rescue Program, ensuring the item’s quality are suitable for participants. We then packed the produce and rescued goods into open boxes and created bags of meat for participants. During the latter half of the day, patrons came to receive a non-perishable box of food, an open-box of produce, a bag of meat, and their choice of available breads and pastries. These items were loaded up and delivered to the clients. Truth be told, the day seemed long but it was very rewarding, especially after seeing the gratitude expressed by participants. Although my time spent at Manna was short, I can say that I have caught their infectious spirit for serving the community. I highly encourage everyone to take a few hours out of his or her day and volunteer with Manna Food Center.

Walking the Walk, Cooking the Box

Jackie here.

Here at Manna Food Center we fully embrace the notion that Dr. King’s Birthday should be a “Day On not a Day Off.” This year in particular, I wanted to honor Dr. King in a way that would help me be a better leader.    Taking to heart Dr. King’s observation that,


“The ultimate measure of a [hu]man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others.”


I decided I wanted to test my commitment to the welfare of others by walking in the shoes of those Manna serves.  I began a week long “Manna diet.”


Like any other participant who schedules a pick-up at one of our distribution sites, on the Friday before MLK weekend I claimed a closed box of non-perishable items and an open box of produce, along with a bag of meat.  Even though I know the technicalities of a Manna order—approximately 60 lbs of food designed to offer items that match the nutritional guidelines of the USDA’s My Plate, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of food I received and the range of items it contained.

Each Manna packages contains a variety from each food group.


Looking the order over, I experienced my first minor disappointment—my produce allotment contained more than ½ dozen green peppers, and only one red.  I’m not a big fan of green peppers.  Plus, there was a huge head of cabbage.  I had no idea how to cook that, and I forgot to grab a recipe in the lobby.  But seconds later I felt a boost: a sweet item I could choose from the dessert table was my favorite—crème brulee. I rarely get that special treat except when I go out to eat at a fancy restaurant. There was even a peanut butter brownie for my spouse!


Within two minutes of my “diet” I got a sense of what Manna participants experience every time they turn to us for food—the fact that the offerings are well-rounded, nutritious, and tasty, but they are also mostly determined by “the luck of the draw.” I received what items were available due to what had been rescued or collected that particular week.


When I arrived home, opening the closed box of canned items and bag of protein was a little like opening birthday gifts.  There was a lot of curiosity about what was inside.  Here, too, I was pleased and disappointed at the same time.  There were lots of green canned vegetables and tuna, which I know I need to eat more of, but there were also yams and dry beans that held no appeal for me.  Also, some of the meat options I had never cooked before in my life (pork neck bones turned out to be quite delicious after I simmered them in a crock pot). In my meal planning for the week, I realized how much I typically rely on food items that are pretty quick to prepare—frozen veggies, quick to boil pasta—and are not very creative.  With the Manna box, I had a variety of items that required time and talent to prepare.  I also realized that I go out to eat regularly, which is something low-income families might not have the option of doing.

Manna distributes these can strainers in our nutrition workshops.


Over the course of my week, aware of the nature of my experiment, I tried not to complain too much about the constraints of my food options, but I definitely felt limited by my circumstances.  I also learned a lot about myself in how I typically use food to reward myself (no salty chips were in my Manna box!), and I gained an appreciation for how much creativity and commitment is necessary to make the most of Manna offerings.  If I wasn’t already committed to Nutrition Education programs to help our participants learn how to shop and cook on a budget, I am now!  If I wasn’t passionate before about increasing options for choice, I am now!  I am so grateful that Manna, in partnership with faith communities, has three choice pantry opportunities each month, where neighbors can shop for the food that matches their families’ size, tastes, and other preferences.


All in all, my week on a Manna diet didn’t entail too much hardship, and I’m proud of that.  That means to me that what Manna is offering our participants is generous, healthful, and appropriate.  We are on track to meet our goals for continuing to increase the quality of food and the options for receiving it.  What I learned most from the week-long diet was the power of giving up comfort and convenience.  Inspired by Dr. King and fueled by the direct experience of being reliant on others for my food, I am more committed to helping create a hunger free Montgomery County.

Thank you for joining us in our concern for the welfare of our neighbors.  I look forward to your responses (on our FB page or info@mannafood.org) to the Manna diet and any reflections you have about the work we are doing.

The Gratitude Jar

Lindsey here. Ready or not, the holidays are here. The pace of this season so often induces stress and financial strain–for those with jobs and especially those without. How do we celebrate in the midst of this tension?

I love this mantra:
interrupt anxiety with gratitude.


It’s one we put into practice at Manna this month, with teammates posting their responses to the questions:

Who are you grateful for?

What ability are you thankful to have?

What do you take for granted in your day-to-day life?

What element of nature are you grateful for?


This week, Manna’s team, volunteers, and participants are bustling around with food distribution before Thanksgiving. It seemed an apt opportunity to pass The Gratitude Jar (a former Utz sourdough pretzel bin)  down the line in our lobby. Every single person waiting for food joyfully accepted the opportunity to submit a message of their own gratitude to the nearly hundred slips of paper filling the jar.


Here are some words of gratitude from Manna’s participants:

  • Gracias por su ayuda. Feliz dia de gracias.
  • Grandbabies
  • I am grateful for not getting wounded in Vietnam! and for being alive
  • I’ve very grateful and appreciative for the food products that we all get from Manna. I am so happy that the volunteers come and give of themselves without a “thank you”. Without Manna, I could not eat every day. Thank you.
  • I’m am grateful because I can walk. Thankful for my parents.
  • Thankful and grateful for family, friends, health, and the kindness of others.
  • I’m grateful that I’m 74 and in good health.
  • Thanks for life. Grateful for the fact that I can stand here and have the power to say thank you, volunteers.
  • Thank you God for waking me up every morning.
  • Thanks to Manna for helping us. We are senior we low income. We eat a lot better. All of the employees are doing a great job, keep it up!
  • Thanks for waking up, having a job, and for all of the help Manna has given my family!
  • My healthy kids.
  • Thankful because God has been good to me. I get free food from Manna when others have nothing to eat. Thank Manna Food.
  • Gracias a dios por mi familia.
  • My four wonderful children who would do anything for me.


From the entire Manna team, we are wishing you a celebration full of joy, gratitude, and memories.


What a Difference a Choice Makes!

Malori here. What comes to mind when you think of a food bank? Prior to working at Manna, I envisioned a line of people signing in to receive a box of canned food and going on their way. It didn’t take long for me to see that it wasn’t as simple as I thought. Manna provides non-perishable items in addition to bread, produce, prepared foods, frozen meat, and baked goods. None of this happens without a hefty load of scheduling and synchronization of multiple departments. While most of Manna’s sites function under this conventional model of distribution, when the opportunity to collaborate arises, Manna offers another model of food distribution.

Just over two years old, Manna’s Choice Pantry at Colesville Presbyterian Church (CPC) is serving our neighbors at its capacity of 70 households each month. On October 28th, I had the opportunity to observe the pantry in action and speak with several participants and volunteers about their experience. It truly is a special site where Manna’s values: respect, service, and partnership are exemplified.

A core team of eight volunteers, co-lead by Toby Weismiller and Mary Scott, oversee the operation every month. On distribution days, as many as twenty-five volunteers, make the four hours of distribution go by as smoothly as possible. Through two shifts, volunteers dedicate their time setting up; checking in participants; stocking bread, meat, and produce tables; preparing refreshments; guiding participants through the shopping room; and bagging groceries.

image-on-mal-blogParticipants choose and tag the boxes they want.  Volunteers then bag the food just like at the grocery store.


Much like at our main distribution center, participants are already in line more than an hour before opening, but what’s different about the choice pantry at CPC is the scene that awaits shoppers. As daylight streams into the grand room, participants are met with warm greetings as they choose a seat at the collection of tables and wait for their number to  be called. Waiting is easier when there’s a chair to sit in and an array of refreshments like coffee, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, and baked goodies available. During their wait, participants are encouraged to select their bread, produce, and meat in between conversations with other participants and volunteers alike. Stacy picks up for another family and finds “the longer she sits, the more likely she is to talk to someone new.”

Orlando, a first time participant, asked me if he could have a banana. He remarked, “This is really nice and organized, I feel like I can be patient.” Joyce has visited the pantry three times with her husband José and loves the “ability to choose the foods that [she wants] and the fact that there is a nice selection of food available.”

Many of the participants echoed these sentiments and while Valerie, finds it comfortable and not rushed, she does miss seeing Ms. Sunshine, also known as Ms. Blanche Hall, a long-time Manna employee. Patience is necessary as the pantry’s main caveat is the wait time as the shopping process varies depending on the participants and the fact that only five participants can go through the dry goods section at a time.

image-2-mal-blogParticipants have the opportunity to choose the items they want right off the shelves that have been organized by food group and type.


Longer wait time aside, Manna’s Choice Pantry at CPC offers our neighbors in need a unique opportunity to make more of their own decisions about the foods they’ll eat over the next couple of weeks. Though this model of distribution takes a concerted effort on both Manna and CPC’s part, two years in, Toby is pleasantly surprised about the ease of the process as the pantry has grown from serving 20 to now 70 families.

Building on the momentum of CPC’s success and in the spirit of respect, service, and partnership, Manna is proud to be able to expand the choice pantry model in partnership with Silver Spring United Methodist Church starting November 12th. The choice pantry at SSUMC will be open two Saturdays each month with the capacity to support 45 families each distribution day. Be sure to reach out to us if you’re interested in being a part of this incredible work happening right here in Montgomery County!


Notes From Our CEO

Dear Manna supporter,

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
This was a favorite saying of my undergraduate professor, Dr. Margaret Ammons.  She was educating her students to be classroom teachers, but I have found her guidance to be true in the not-for-profit sector.  If social enterprises lack a plan for how they will fulfill their missions, they can easily fall into a trap of delivering immediate services but not focused on approaches to solve long-standing issues.
Last year Manna Food Center committed itself to a fresh look at its work and mission, by embarking on a strategic planning process.  We listened to stakeholders like you, analyzed trends, and debated the way forward.  I am very pleased to report that on September 27, 2016, our Board of Directors endorsed a 2017 – 2020 plan.  For the next three years, Manna Food Center will focus on pursuing its mission through participant-centered and data driven program delivery, community leadership and advocacy, and a values-based business model that supports the people who make our work possible.  Our team is now focused on creating an implementation approach.
To make sure we match organizational structure to the challenges and opportunities ahead, we also reconfigured our leadership team.  In the photo above you’ll see some familiar faces but new titles.  Angela Whitmal, with more than 11 years of service to Manna, is now our Senior Director of Administration and Client Services.  Jenna Umbriac, R.D., is directing our new Programs and Policies team.  Our logistics work is directed by Edwin Drijas. Stephanie Hubbard has expanded her portfolio as Director of Development and Communications.  Additionally, Manna’s Board has named me Chief Executive Officer, with the honor of leading the entire Manna team.
On the horizon this year, as we strive for a hunger free MoCo is the opening, on November 12, of our second choice pantry in partnership with Silver Spring United Methodist Church; retooling our fleet of trucks-including a Manna Mobile Market visiting neighborhoods beginning June 2018; and developing a Capacity Building Campaign to secure additional funding  for expansion of our space and facilities.
Another saying of Dr. Ammons’ was “some teachers have 20 years’ experience or some have the same experience 20 times.”  Our new strategic plan is a demonstration of Manna’s commitment to progress, continuous improvement, and to striving until, in the words of our vision statement, “Our community is a place where all people at all times have access to safe, sufficient, nutritious food in order to lead fulfilling lives and contribute to making Montgomery County, Maryland, a place where all live in dignity.”

Jackie DeCarlo
Chief Executive Officer

The Privilege to Peruse the News

Lindsey here. A theme of conversation these days among Manna staff, particularly in our Breaking Bread conversations, is privilege. There are so many ways the privilege of time and leisure come into our health. A recent article about privilege and personal responsibility (a worthy read, check it out) reminded me that there are unexpected ways this luxury appears in eating well.

Naturally, an important step in nutritious eating is cooking at home—I share this in every class I lead. But the time to read about healthy foods, shop for those foods (assuming they fit in your budget), prep and cook is not a priority everyone can afford.

Even keeping up with accurate news can feel like yet another thing on top of a busy working family’s to-do list.  One simple way to empower our families at Manna with healthy steps that are possible now is providing nutrition information in our lobby literature racks. Waiting in line to pick up food often offers our families an opportunity to read—so I added this handy list to our lobby today.


8 Great Ways to Live Healthier and Save Money Doing It

adapted from U.S. News and World Report, August 2015 by Lindsey Seegers


  1. ONE Plan your groceries before you go to the store.
    Check out the food in your fridge and your pantry to see what meal makers you have on-hand. Make a list and stick to it at the store—a handy way to avoid overbuying at the store and wasting food at home.
  2. TWO Drink water.
    Buying sodas, coffees and smoothies on the go is costly for your wallet and your health. That money you save can go towards wholesome groceries. Water is free (especially if you take a reusable bottle with you to refill)!
  3. THREE Eat less meat.
    Meat can often be the most expensive item on our grocery bills. Varying your protein purchases can stretch your shopping budget further, and provide more nutrients for your body. Foods like legumes, peanuts, nuts, grains and seeds offer your body protein, too, and often for less money.
  4. FOUR Discovery free ways to move more.
    Finding the time and energy to exercise can be challenge. Ever harder—those expensive fitness gyms! Walking with your kids, friends, or dog is a free way to get more steps in the day. If the weather isn’t nice enough to be out, you can dance, stretch, climb stairs, and move more indoors, too.
  5. FIVE Kick the habit.
    Cutting out cigarettes immediately puts money back in your wallet, not to mention the benefits your body enjoys. Cutting back on alcohol, or other substances, can to save your money and save your life.
  6. SIX Catch up on an active date.
    Everyone can afford to be more active, and it doesn’t have to cost money. Spend time with your loved ones (friends, too!) by taking a walk, hike, or even renting a canoe. Research shows that relationships can influence a person’s health and wellness decisions.

  1. SEVEN Follow the doctor’s orders.
    Cancelling a doctor’s visit or skipping medicine saves you money right now. But following through on preventative care can save you expensive hospital visits. Avoiding the doctor can mean expensive consequences to your health and your budget later on.


  1.  EIGHT Mind your mental health.

Mental health and happiness are important. Neglecting psychological issues, such as depression, can make it challenging to work. Ignoring mental health can also increase the risk of suffering chronic health conditions. Besides seeing a doctor, the tips listed above can also improve mood and happiness!


These tips might not be new, but certainly provided an important reminder to me to consider self-care. Post this list on your fridge, pass along to a friend, or come grab a copy yourself next time you pop over to our warehouse to donate or volunteer.

And the Survey Says……

Dear friend of Manna,
Although school was out during the summer, Manna did a little bit of testing. In June & July we completed our annual client and staff surveys to get feedback and input into the effectiveness of our programs and the status of our team.

Manna has, in my humble opinion, the best team in Montgomery County. Our dedicated staff of two dozen individuals embraces our core values of service, respect, and collaboration to pursue our mission of eliminating hunger in our community. We are as beautiful as the county itself-reflecting diverse ethnicities, classes, races, and religions. Our skills range from navigating suburban and rural roads behind the wheel of 20 foot trucks, to serving clients with professionalism and compassion, to building donor relationships, to collaborating with partners of all kinds…and much, much more.
One of my main goals as Executive Director is to serve this incredible staff so they can do their best to serve the community. I was humbled and gratified when our survey results showed 67% of the Manna team rated their experience working at Manna as excellent. This was up from 32% in FY15. Other notable responses were that 73% agree or strongly agree that their opinions count at Manna, and 87% believe Manna is on the right path to achieving its mission.
Feedback from our client survey was encouraging as well. Our service was rated good or excellent by 92% of our participants. 92% also indicated they use most or all of food received, indicating that we are providing quality, healthy food and also helping avoid food waste at the household level. The most popular suggestion we received, from 73% of participants, was the request for a larger portion of fresh fruits and vegetables.
One of my favorite sayings around Manna is that I don’t expect perfection but I do expect excellence. I think that this summer’s survey responses indicate Manna is making the most of its high caliber team to deliver exceptional programs. You as a community member should also expect no less, and I thank you for your support .
Jackie DeCarlo
Executive Director

What Boy Scout Ethan Made For Manna

Ethan Kach stopped by last week with a handcrafted gift for Manna. Two in fact.

A few members or Manna's team admire Ethan's customized carts
A few members of Manna’s team admire Ethan’s customized carts


Ethan first learned about Manna Food Center through the Boy Scouts’ participation in “Scouting For Food”. Ethan walked door to door the past four years for this annual food drive. Once a neighbor asked Ethan to volunteer in our warehouse for an evening of packing food boxes and he finally got to see Manna behind-the-scenes. “I was very impressed with the warehouse in how organized everything was, the amount of food that gets collected, and how many people are there to help provide food for the hungry.”


For his Eagle Scout project, Ethan came up with the idea to host a food drive, and build two custom carts for Manna. He met with our Operations team last year and saw the need for moving boxes, food, and supplies throughout our warehouse. You will see in the photo that Ethan included rubber bumpers on the corners of the cart to protect our walls–how considerate of you, Ethan! He also added a handle, a drawer for storage, and a space below measured to perfectly store our flat-packed boxes.

We plan to feature these carts at our sites like Colesville Presbyterian Church and Silver Spring United Methodist–they will be perfect for food demonstrations and nutrition lessons.



Ethan has been working for five years to reach the honor of Eagle Scout. Completing this project inches Ethan closer to his goal, and gifts Manna with a physical reminder of the kindness of our community.

Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Ethan. Good luck!





Notes From Our CEO

Dear Manna supporter,

I imagine you, also, are thinking about the perfect gifts, no matter what your family or faith traditions.   Parents are making lists & checking them twice.  Congregations are preparing special packages to deliver to neighbors in need.  Businesses are collecting toys to share at local schools.  Through all these activities, we are all giving AND we are receiving.Manna staff recently pulled names for a Secret Santa Gift Exchange and, being a creative crew, you could see the wheels in people’s heads start turning.

Here at Manna we give food on a daily basis, made possible through your donations and we receive warm smiles & thankful comments in return.  A teacher at our Smart Sacks school remarked, “Thanks to this program, families are able to feed their children when seasonal jobs like landscaping are scarce.” Throughout the year we share food with our neighbors because we know that all people deserve to be well-fed, all our seniors deserve to be cared for, and all our children need to be ready to achieve. In return, our neighborhoods are filled with people better able to create a community where we all live in dignity.

As you consider your year-end charitable contributions, I thank you for what you have made possible so far this year and I ask for your generosity as Manna prepares for the year ahead. Here in your local community, Manna will work to ensure that all food insecure neighbors have access to the food they need to live healthy, active lives.  With your end-of-year gift, you can bolster our programs and projects. Be sure to check your mailbox for a special edition of “Manna Matters” newsletter featuring all the ways you can support this vital work.

In exchange, you’ll receive a sincere thank you, noting the tax benefits of your gift.  I suspect, though, as a faithful community supporter, you will most enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you are a part of Manna Food Center’s mission.  Just as the Manna team is taking a pause to enjoy the simple act of giving and receiving, savor the importance of your gift. Together we can end the year with a spirit of generosity and a sense of possibility.


Best wishes of the season to you,

Jackie DeCarlo




Three Minutes at Manna

Lindsey here. Here is what I observed in three consecutive minutes at Manna this week:



Mark Mills, a chocolatier, professional chef, and, oh yes, full-time farmer at Chocolate and Tomatoes farm, pulls up to Manna in his pick up truck, bearing gifts: coolers and crates overflow with freshly picked collard greens, cucumbers, jalapeños and even fresh ginger. 648 pounds of fresh food for the families lined up in our lobby.


mark mills donation

In the referral office, all five phones are active, three volunteers and our own Yelba and Silvia signing up clients to pick up Manna food boxes. In the summer, more children wait in line with their parents, sitting on the floor or their mommy’s laps. Over the cacophony of ringing-beeping-faxing-talking-printing cries a baby in the lobby. Not a whimper, a long heart-wrenching hungry cry. The crying crescendos over all the bustling of the lobby and referral office.


yelba phone call

referral office locations

silvia pics

The open boxes, brimming with local produce, sit in a line waiting to go home. Our clients sit and stand in line for noon to approach, when distribution starts—though cabs and buses dropped off some men and women nearly two hours before. Despite the wait in this heat, despite the anxiety of carting home these heavy food packages (sometimes down the sidewalk with an actual cart), every person in line bestows a generous offer. You see, the baby crying—a curly-headed girl, 5 weeks small and barely filling out her diaper—is cradled in the arms of her mother. Her mother, who stands at the very end of a line now curled around Manna’s modest lobby to avoid the heat. So when Yelba steps out of the referral office to greet our clients and ask if Mom and Baby can get their food first today, everyone joyfully agrees. And, smiling, they move their chairs and bodies to make room for her stroller.

vertical open boxes

Witnessing this gesture was beautiful. But this moment of generosity is not uncommon: the giving that happens here is not just from Manna’s staff and volunteers. Unselfish hospitality abounds in this place.


Happy Independence Day

Dear Manna supporter,
When I was in the third grade I won an essay contest entitled, “Why I Love My Country.”  Whenever the 4th of July rolls around, I remember my careful cursive writing and some of the things a young girl was proud of: beautiful landscapes, the Constitution, and caring teachers like Mrs. Robinson.
All grown up and living in Montgomery County, I still believe deeply in the best of America.  Even though on a daily basis the Manna team witnesses some of the struggles our neighbors face, we also know firsthand that community members, like you, are rising to the challenge of fighting hunger with us.  We need food, friends, and funds to reach approximately 3,700 families each month, and your continued generosity and support make that work possible.
Thanks also to those of you who responded to last month’s request to participate in our strategic planning survey.  The people we serve are partners in our work too.  Recently, as part of our strategic planning process, Manna invited groups of clients to speak to us about Manna services and to share opinions about the future of our work.   Their sentiments were both encouraging when they spoke of their gratitude for Manna and heart-wrenching when they spoke of their need:
If there was no way to get food from Manna during the month, the degree of hardship will be great, especially for the children who often have to go to bed hungry.  There are numerous occasions during the month were there is only enough food for the children, so the parents will miss a meal.
Throughout the summer, Manna will continue our process of listening to stakeholders as we finalize a strategic plan.  I will be sharing details with you in future newsletters.  While we don’t have all of goals and strategies set, like that little third grader who won her first blue ribbon, I’m very optimistic about our prospects. I know what this community has to offer, and I’m proud to work with you and the whole Manna team to create a Hunger Free Montgomery County.
Jackie DeCarlo
Executive Director

Root to Stalk Eating

Lindsey here. This time of year, the open food boxes we distribute to clients are overflowing with local produce. It’s a beautiful sight: plump tomatoes and bouquets of kale tucked between varieties of purple, white and wee green eggplants. These fruits and veggies travel home alongside foods that our drivers rescue from grocery stores each day. Greek yogurt, cheeses, salad makings and cut fruit provide meals with foods that—if not rescued from grocery stores overturning inventory—would have gone to the trash.


Sometimes food waste seems obvious: perfectly edible, whole ingredients tossed from shelf to garbage. But there is another way food that costs our money and time ends up needlessly wasted. Have you ever brought home a head of broccoli and plucked off the florets only? Or found yourself stumped over the stems of leafy greens and cooked only the tops? When it comes to plants, unnecessary waste can happen when we’re not sure if all the parts are edible and what on earth to do with them.

swiss chard

Take this vibrant rainbow chard for example. The prettiest part is the sunset-hued stems, right? But many recipes call only for the leaves. Did you know the stems can be sliced and stir fried, with the leaves added in at the end? The same goes for greens tops (turnip, beet, kohlrabi, collard, or mustard greens); these can be easily braised with garlic and crushed red chili flakes.


You can also switch up your chickpea hummus with chard stalks! In the Mediterranean, chard stalks are boiled and pureéd with garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice for a savory dip.


The most important part of these techniques and know-how—beyond the environmental and good-feeling part of salvaging edible food—is that food stretches further. This is critical when families leave Manna with a 3-5 day supply of food and need those ingredients to make multiple meals. It’s why we provide recipes and cooking tips to our clients.

manna Rack of seasonal food

Want to make the most of your farmers market purchases this summer? Check out these great reads below. While you’re at the market, come visit a Manna table (look for the bright red tablecloth) at farmers markets all over Montgomery County!

Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable by Tara Duggan (have this on my shelf!)

The Southern Vegetable Book: A Root-to-Stalk Guide to the South’s Favorite Produce by Rebecca Lang

Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons by Steven Satterfield

Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison

Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food by Dana Gunders


Eat the Rainbow (skip the skittles)

Lindsey here. Something special about Manna is that we promote “caring for those who care”. If you’ve ever served in a caregiving capacity for a loved one, you know that the caretaker’s own well-being is not always a priority. Likewise, at Manna we are bustling around in the business of distributing food each day—the need is always urgent. Stopping for a wholesome lunch or brisk walk doesn’t feel as pressing.


It’s why we started MORE at Manna, a program to encourage wellness among our Manna teammates. MORE stands for Movement, yOur health, Relaxation, and Education. For two years, we’ve invited dietitians, boxing instructors, fitness pros, and yoga teachers to join our staff for interactive “Lunch and Learn” sessions. We also run staff-wide competitions for most steps, drinking water, and eating more fruits and veggies. Last month, Jenna and I hosted a 21-day “Eat the Rainbow” Challenge.

Did you know that eating all colors of fruits and vegetables give our bodies maximum nutrients? Each color of fruit and vegetables provides unique, essential health benefits. We challenged our colleagues to eat at least one serving of produce from every color every day! Next week, we celebrate the winners. (One staff member ate 211.5 servings of produce in 21 days!)


How many colors have you enjoyed today?

Four Health Habits To Start Today

Lindsey here. I’ve been teaching healthy budget shopping with the Cooking Matters at the Store program for the three years I’ve been Manna’s Nutrition Educator. The questions that arise week after week are, sadly, the same: “I was just diagnosed with Type II diabetes, what can I eat now?”


In response to this question, I developed a new class for Manna called “Habits to Hinder Diabetes and Chronic Disease”. I teach this class at agencies throughout Montgomery County. This week alone, I’ve taught the workshop to over 60 individuals at senior apartment complexes and the Wells-Robertson House. The refrain of this class is that Type II diabetes can be controlled, and—best of all—prevented and potentially reversed. There is so much bad news about diabetes, a diagnosis that can be frustrating, confusing, and maddening. So I set out to create an uplifting workshop that highlights the ways we can take control over our health. One of those is to gradually transition our eating habits from those abundant meats and sweets to more beans and greens. But informed food choices are only one piece of prevention.

Hand turning the word Unhealthy into Healthy with red marker isolated on white.

Here are the four healthy habits we discuss at the end of the workshop (adapted from The End of Diabetes by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.):


1.      Make a commitment to yourself.

speedometer with the words You're in Control illustration design

Write down your health goal and share with valued people in your life. Rather than thinking “I’m on a diet”, consider the choices you are making towards your own health and positive well-being. This isn’t about deprivation, it’s about the good care you’re giving yourself. Indulgent comfort-food may provide a momentary boost, but the most pleasure in life comes from more meaningful achievements. Each day of healthier food choices brings you closer to improving your health.


2.      Track your progress.

Keep a notebook in a place you’ll see it (next to the bed, in the pantry). At least twice weekly: log foods, (and beverages!) and exercise. Even if it’s not the precise amount, paint a picture of the food variety in your day. A variety of color is key. If you have diabetes, track your blood sugar and medications too. Write down your movement, how long and vigorous the exercise. Tracking your progress and success can be a powerful motivator—you’ve got the data to show for all your hard work!


3.      Switch up your pantry.

Keep bulk items around. The store brand plain oatmeal, bag of carrots and onions, and one pound of brown rice are inexpensive (versatile and nutritious!) items that stretch your food throughout the month. Avoid purchasing foods that are pre-seasoned and flavored. With items like canned soups or high-sodium packaged foods, combine with fresh, frozen, or no-salt added items to add more fiber to the dish and decrease the sodium per serving.


bigstock-woman-doing-push-ups-during-ou-364159724.      Move more.

Exercise is the very best prescription to protect our health. Medication does not replace the need to (or lifelong benefits) eat well and move more. The benefits are vast, supporting the musculoskeletal system, digestion, heart and blood vessels, and even mental function! This doesn’t have to be long distance running: even standing up from a chair and sitting back down for 5 straight minutes gets the heart pumping.



If you know an agency serving families with low-income that may be interested in this class, contact Lindsey at Lindsey@mannafood.org

Thank You Elected Officials

When Manna’s doors first opened 33 years ago last month, elected officials were present at the creation. Several months before, County Executive Charles Gilchrist, had convened a task force to address the needs of low income and hungry neighbors.   Staff from the Department of Health and Human Services, then headed by Chuck Short, now Special Assistant to County Executive Leggett, took a lead role in creating what became Manna Food Center.  We are grateful for the foundational vision of politicians and civil servants who shaped Manna’s mission.  Today, with the passing of the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, we continue our appreciation for the leadership that made funding of several core programs possible.  While public funding constitutes only about 20% of Manna’s total revenue, it is essential to our ability to work toward a hunger free Montgomery County.

“We are also beefing up our safety net with an increase in the Working Parents Assistance program’s subsidies for child care; an increase for initiatives for homeless veterans and chronically homeless adults; an increase for the [Weekend Bag Coalition], which provides food for elementary school children; and numerous other support programs for our most vulnerable residents.” -Nancy Floreen


I know that many difficult decisions were made by the County Executive and County Council in approving the budget. As a taxpayer and homeowner I recognize that my family will be paying more in taxes to make this budget possible.  As the Executive Director of Manna, I am also impressed that, as Council President Nancy Floreen said, many items in the budget “….will have a direct impact on residents’ lives….[For example] We are also beefing up our safety net with an increase in the Working Parents Assistance program’s subsidies for child care; an increase for initiatives for homeless veterans and chronically homeless adults; an increase for the [Weekend Bag Coalition], which provides food for elementary school children; and numerous other support programs for our most vulnerable residents.”


Thanks to Montgomery County support Manna will be able to:

    – Continue our service as the County’s designated food bank: Last year Manna reached 38,637 residents at an annual cost to the County of approximately $5.00 per person

  – Provide nutritious food to approximately 2,500 students weekly through our Smart Sacks weekend bag program.   By collaborating with Montgomery County Public Schools, Women Who Care Ministries, and Kids in Need Distributors, we will also scale up efforts to reach the neediest low income students in the next school year

  – Coordinate the efforts of the Community Food Rescue network, which is working to increase the amount of food recovered and shared with food insecure neighbors by 20%

  – Work with local farmers and Farmers’ Markets through our “Farm to Food Bank” project that makes more locally grown produce available to the 3,700 families who visit Manna monthly.


When I approach foundations, individuals and businesses to ask them to lend their support to these programs designed to end hunger, my “ask” is stronger because I can say that elected officials are a part of the solution.  Clearly taxpayers are both contributors to and beneficiaries of the work Manna does.  On behalf of the staff and Board of Manna Food Center, and the individuals, families and neighborhoods we serve, I thank Montgomery County as a whole for being a place where our most vulnerable residents are served and our prosperity is shared.


Jackie DeCarlo

Executive Director


The Sweetest (Crunchiest) Way To Help Manna This Summer




Check out this refreshing salad. I grew it. My name is Lindsey Seegers and I am not a master gardener. In fact, I wouldn’t even call myself a gardener: I’m terrified of worms, everything outside makes me sneeze, and I have only two gardening tools. Not even decent gardening gloves.


But guess what? I grow my own food. And it’s delicious. There is something so satisfying about the flavor and sense of accomplishment (in the order of your choosing). You can totally do this, too.

power greens growing on my back steps
power greens growing on my back steps


Manna partners with farms and farmers markets to offer our families more fresh produce during the growing season. Think how much you love juicy summer tomatoes and crispy vegetables. These seasonal luxuries are just as prized for our clients, but often financially out of reach.


How can you help? Grow a Row for Manna! You can grow a small garden no matter your space. I have assorted, inexpensive plastic pots that hang out on my back steps all summer. Thanks to direct sunlight, there’s not a lot of work me for to do besides water and watch.


This year, I’m growing kale, chard, strawberries, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and herbs of all kinds. If I (averse to worms and pollen) can do it, you can too!


Here are some fantastic tips from Maryland’s Gardening Network:


  1. PLANTS NEED DIRECT SUNLIGHT. Tomatoes and peppers need at least 6 hour of direct sun. Herbs, lettuces, kale, collards, and beans need at least 4 hours.
  2. WATER THE SOIL WHEN IT IS DRY. Every day, push your finger one inch into the soil. If the soil is dry, slowly add water until it runs out the bottom of the pot. Water twice a day in very hot weather.
  3. PICK AND EAT THE VEGETABLES! Pick the vegetables as soon as they are ripe. Picking them makes the plants grown more.


c'mon little peppers, grow!
c’mon little peppers, grow!

If you have extra, bring your homegrown produce to our Gaithersburg warehouse. Happy Harvest!


Need help? You can e-mail GardenersGrow@gmail.com or check out this link for more great resources.




May 11: 2016 Food Waste Summit

 2016 Food Waste Summit

Hosted by the Keystone Policy Center and National Consumers League

When: May 11, 2016, 8am-4pm

Manna’s Executive Director, Jackie DeCarlo will be attending the 2016 Food Waste Summit. Jackie will be participating in round table discussions with leaders from government, industry, and NGO’s regarding innovative approaches, priorities, and promising strategies. Discuss ongoing consumer-facing initiatives related to food waste in the public, both private and civic sectors.

Check out Manna’s Twitter page for “in the moment” tweets of the summit from Jackie!


Special Call To Action: Smart Sacks Program

Manna Food Center’s Smart Sacks program has been hard at work strengthening an important collaboration with two other weekend bag programs serving our County’s elementary school students.  Women Who Care Ministries and Kids in Need Distributors have been part of a Manna-led coalition for nearly 2 years now and our hard work and cooperation is about to pay off, but we need your help!HR Kids backpacks

The coalition presented our plan to serve more students than ever before and County Council members Roger Berliner, Craig Rice and George Leventhal are supporting a request for an additional $150,000 dollars in the County budget to make this happen. 

Although we have some great champions on the Council we need support from all of the members, including your representative, to get this funding approved! 

By May 17, the Council will have to make final decisions on budget allocations, reconciliations, etc. and they need to hear public support of these funds in the next two weeks.  You can find the contact information for your Council member at this link

Please take a moment over the next few days to let the Council know how valuable weekend programs are for MCPS students and their families.  We are extremely grateful to our donors, volunteers and partners who help our organizations reach over 4,600 elementary students each weekend, but with more than 29,000 students eligible for assistance there is still work to be done.

With your continued support we know we can do more!

May 14: Rockville Farmers Market Reopen

The Rockville Farmers Market will reopen on Saturday, May 14 giving shoppers a place to find fresh produce, plants, baked goods, soaps and more.

Several returning vendors such as Great Harvest Bread Company, Gilda’s Produce and Quarter Branch Farm will have a variety of goods on sale. New additions to the Rockville Farmers Market include Bethesda Salt Cave, Brookeville Beer Farm, Ev & Maddy’s and Milkhouse Brewery at Stillpoint Farm.

The market will be open on Saturdays from May 14 thru November 19 during the hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Rockville Farmers Market will be located in the jury parking lot at the intersection of East Jefferson Street and Monroe Street in Rockville Town Center.

For more information, visit the City of Rockville website.

April 15-21: Ride On’s Annual Give & Ride Food Drive

Give and Ride April 15 – 21

Mark your calendars and spread the word! Starting on Sunday April 15th and running through Saturday, April 21st, passengers can ride for FREE by bringing non-perishable food items to any Ride On bus in Montgomery County.

Ride & Donate at the same time!

Even if you have a Ride On pass, bring a can and save a fare! If transferring to other buses, bring additional donations. All donations will benefit Manna and the Montgomery County community.

Don’t know what to donate? CLICK HERE to see Manna’s Most Needed Food Items list!

*Please avoid donating any food items with glass/breakable containers.


April 26: Charity Off The Hook at The Tavern at Ivy City

Charity Off The Hook at The Tavern at Ivy City

April 26, 2016  6:00 PM (6 PM – 10 PM)

Join The Tavern at Ivy City for the fifth annual Charity Off The Hook Seafood Celebration. This event will benefit local noteworthy charities, including Manna Food Center!

When: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 6-10 p.m.

The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse
1356 Okie Street,
NE Washington, DC

Tickets: $65 per person Includes tastes of dishes prepared by all nine chefs, raw oyster shucking stations, smoked seafood station, passed appetizers, beer garden, and wine.

This year’s participating chefs include:
Victor Albisu: Del Campo & Taco Mamba
Matt Baker: Gravitas
Scott Drewno: The Source by Wolfgang Puck Mike Isabella:
Mike Isabella Concepts
Alberto Baizano Bollera: The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse
Danny Lee: Mandu 18th Street & K Street
Dave Stein: Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place
Bobby Jones: The Point Crab House & Grill
Haider Karoum: Proof, Doi Moi, & Estadio
Matt Hill: The Liberty Tavern

CLICK HERE to purchase your tickets now!

Eggplants are from Mars, Peppers are from Venus

What an honor to discuss nutrition education with the great Marion Nestle: professor, amazing author, and expert on food politics. Check out "What To Eat" if you haven’t read it yet!
What an honor to discuss nutrition education with the great Marion Nestle:
professor, amazing author, and expert on food politics. Check out
“What To Eat” if you haven’t read it yet!

Lindsey here. I just returned from Hollywood. Yes, Hollywood: the locale of this year’s conference for the International Association of Culinary Professionals. There were wonderful surprises on my trip, including a memorable conversation around Nigerian cuisine with my cab driver, Joseph.

I also met some food heroes of mine, Marion Nestle and Lynne Rossetto Kasper. I missed out on autographs, but the opportunity for conversation over dinner was even better. Rather than share about themselves (or their amazing books and radio shows), theirs was a mutual chorus praising Manna’s work, especially nutrition education, as the most important kind of work food lovers can share.

The best conference swag: fresh fruit! my first ojai pixe tangerine.
The best conference swag: fresh fruit! my first ojai pixe tangerine.


Beyond workshops about why cooking matters to kids today, the food retail revolution, and the future of cooking lessons, I spent my first conference day touring Melissa’s Produce. Melissa’s is the country’s leading distributor of specialty produce. On the East Coast, we buy their fruits and veggies in stores like Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Wegmans. Our Manna drivers rescue food from these stores each week, meaning that Melissa’s produce rotating out of grocery store inventory is likely making its way to Manna boxes. This food rescue provides our clients with wholesome fresh veggies, and also reduces food waste.

My visit to Melissa’s California warehouse included perusing 1,500 different varieties of fruits and vegetables! In this tour, I learned the birds and the bees of foods that grow on trees…


Four Things This Foodie Did NOT Know About Fruits and Veggies

1.     Males look great in purple

Eggplant is easily my favorite vegetable, I love how versatile it is. It can be creamy, smoky, or crispy—depending how you cook it. Newbies to eating eggplant often complain about the bitter taste, and, boy oh boy, is there an easy way to get around that! The male eggplant has a very small, round scar on the round base of the vegetable; this has less seeds and is less bitter. The female eggplant has a larger, sometimes longer scar, with more seeds: more bitter. If you’re new to eggplant, try cooking a male eggplant.


2.     The bumpier the better

Bell peppers are a different story. If you want the sweetest pepper—think of those NO BOYS ALLOWED signs from middle school—look for the sweet females. Female peppers have four (or more!) bumps; they are sweeter with more seeds, and great for eating raw. Male peppers have three bumps: less seeds and less sweet. Male peppers are better for cooking.


3.     A rose is a rose

You know how some things in life have different names for the same item? Water closet, washroom, loo, powder room, lavatory—we know it’s the same destination. But did you know that the tangerine, clementine, and mandarin orange is the very same fruit? This rocked my world.


4.     Go give it a squeeze

Mangoes have the most beautiful hues, from tropical greens to sunny yellows and oranges. Though mangoes are the most popular fruit worldwide, many of us look at these colors for ripeness. However, like a peach, tender flesh + fruity fragrance is the real way to determine if your mango is ready to enjoy.


Part of my job as Nutrition Educator is to develop recipes for the abundant, and sometimes, unusual, foods we distribute at Manna. Upon learning this, my new friends at Melissa’s gifted Manna with this wonderful reference book, Melissa’s Great Book of Produce.

Do dragonfruits have genders?
Do dragonfruits have genders?

At the end of the day, eating more fruits and vegetables (no matter what the gender) is what counts the most. Our farmers, local grocery stores, and generous donors help make that possible for the families we serve. To learn more about how Manna drivers rescue food from local grocery stores, click here.

Celebrating Heroes Against Hunger

For the second year in a row, Manna organized our “Heroes Against Hunger” reception on April 7 at VisArts in Rockville. We picked the theme of heroes because we are fortunate every day to see heroism in action.  We see it in the 3,700 families we serve each month, who struggle with not always knowing where their next meal is coming from; We see it in their neighbors, who volunteer their time in our warehouse and at our grocery store tours; we see it in the faith based groups, schools and businesses that organize food drives;  We see heroism in our Board, some of who have personal stories of needing the support of free and reduced meals at school or food stamps during a family crisis.  We often say at Manna that no one agency can end hunger.   We also see heroism in the actions of our peers, like the staff of Shepherd’s Table and MCCH, who worked through the winter blizzards determined not to close their doors to the homeless.

At our reception, we spent an evening celebrating those types of heroes as well as two special guests.

jamie miller giant award shondra miller sodexo heroes against hunger proclamation

Corporate Hero Against Hunger award: Giant Food

Back in 1983, Manna Food Center was founded by the community and Giant was present at the creation as our first food donor. They started us off with 16,000 pounds of food. These days at 6:30 a.m. our drivers head out for their daily rescue of food from dozens of Giants.   Giant was a role model for the community because now Manna rescues from every major supermarket chain in the County.

Giant also hosts every fall our annual Community Service Week food drive and every Dr. King weekend you can see students, civic leaders and average citizens participating in food drives at all 27 Giant locations in the County to help us stock our shelves for the winter. This spring, April 23-24 and May 7-8,  Giant will be hosting food drives at a dozen stores conducted in partnership with the Montgomery County Muslim Foundation.

Whenever Giant hosts a food drive, I make a point of popping in at stores and I’m often so pleased by how the Giant staff embrace these community events. I go up to the customer service desk and staff, see my Manna nametag and always know who we are and what we are about.   I particularly get a kick out of the store managers who have friendly competitions to see which store can collect the most food by encouraging their shoppers to give generously.   We were proud at HAH to present Giant Food with our first Corporate Hero Against Hunger award.

Just as no one agency can end hunger, even more so, no one sector alone—not corporations, not the government, not all the nonprofits put together can end hunger by themselves. It is a community effort.  As was recently discussed at Impact Now in Silver Spring, it will take a community effort to share prosperity, to create an abundant community.  It will take authentic, courageous, collective work.

But like most things in life, there is a paradox. It is also true, that businesses, governments, neighborhoods are made up of people, of individuals, and it is very appropriate to raise up the example of outstanding individuals to celebrate what they do in and for their communities.  That’s why Manna presented, Shondra Jenkins, our Hero Against Hunger award tonight.

When I first came on board at Manna, Shondra popped in with a donation, and it was clear that she was a familiar face and that she kind of knew her way around our big warehouse. That’s because for many years, Shondra has been contributing in many ways to Manna’s work, particularly our fight against childhood hunger.  In fact, she and her husband, helped us start a weekend bag initiative, now known as the Goldberg Smart Sacks program,  which helps feed low-income kids and their families every Friday of the school year.  She and Greg helped us design the program to be a true community partnership between Manna, Montgomery County Public Schools, and a sponsoring agency, the first one was Greg’s credit union.  What started out at one school, Summit Hill Elementary back in 2005, is now in 60 schools with more than 50 partners such as congregations, corporations and civic organizations, who work together to reach 2,491 students each week and provide tasty, well balanced food for their families.

Manna has taken a leadership role in organizing a coalition of other nonprofits who have replicated the model and together we’ve establish a goal of doubling the number of school children who receive bags throughout the county. We make those ambitious goals because of the original inspiration Shondra and her family provided.  In fact, Shondra’s mom, Elaine, has been known to drop off food at the warehouse.  Just last week Shondra’s son, Tyler asked for a tour of Manna because his mom was talking to him about food recovery as a way to help end hunger over a family dinner.

Shondra’s family is an inspiration and she also did serve on our Board of Directors as a representative of the Sodexo corporation. These days Shondra is an important advisor to me, especially with strategic work with our Community Food Rescue initiative as our County works together with food donors, food assistance organizations, and food runners, to increase the amount of food recovered in Montgomery County by 20%.   I am so appreciative of the leadership she shows Manna and the entire movement to end hunger.   I’ve seen Shondra in action at national conferences and she is an expert, a networker, and an inspiration.

As the 2016 Individual Hero Against Hunger, Shondra is a great role model to us all and she takes her places among many others in the community working to make Montgomery County Hunger Free. We salute her and all of you, our Manna Food Center supporters.

Jackie DeCarlo
Executive Director

April 28: Community Food Rescue Safe Food Handling Webinar



Community Food Rescue offers this FREE food safety webinar for food rescue recipient organization staff and volunteers and CFR volunteer food runners who will be actively engaged in recovering unused surplus food from food businesses.  This modified ServSafe training will cover four main areas with special emphasis on how to conduct a CFR food run and what food runners need to know:

1.       Basic Food Safety

2.       Personal Hygiene

3.       Cross-Contamination prevention

4.       Time & Temperature Control

Community Food Rescue guidelines will be covered and each participant will leave with the knowledge needed to safely receive food from donors, transport and deliver rescued food under proper temperature controls.  Cheryl Kollin, Community Food Rescue, Jenna Umbriac, Manna Food Center and Teresa Johnson, Family Services, Inc. will be leading the training.

Click here to register!

April 10: Food Access and Recovery: Setting Goals to Tackle in 2016 and Beyond

The Montgomery County Food Council is updating its strategy for addressing food access issues and promoting food rescue in the County and we want you to be involved! Two of the Council’s work groups on Food Access and Food Recovery are merging and we’re hosting a short retreat to celebrate past accomplishments and outline a new path forward.

If you’re interesting in being a part of these efforts, please join us for a public meeting on April 10th from 2-5p.  We’ll work together to set measurable goals, name the new group, and agree on consistent day/time/place for monthly meetings. Please click here to register via Eventbrite.

When: April 10, 2016

Where: Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church/Growing Graceful Together
8011 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814

April 1: Market at River Falls Community First Day

Shop at The Market at River Falls on April 1st between 10:00 am & 7:00 pm for their Community First Day! 25% of your purchase will go to benefit Manna Food Center and the Montgomery County community. Take this opportunity to enjoy some gourmet favorites and donate to Manna at the same time!

The Market at River Falls
10124 River Road
Potomac, MD 20854


About The Market at River Hills

Since opening its doors in 1998, the Market at River Falls has served as the singular resource in Potomac, Maryland, for high quality, fresh seafood, meats, and prepared foods. Under the new stewardship of husband-and-wife team James McWhorter and Yasmin Abadian – long-time Potomac residents and avid Market patrons – the Market at River Falls has been revitalized with fresh new offerings delivered by the same knowledgeable, friendly service staff, including David Fletcher, Michael “Junior” Turgott, Steve Fela, and Erika Torrey.

Yasmin moved to the Potomac area with her family in 1966, when her father accepted a position with the World Bank. She has considered Potomac her home for decades, watching it grow and expand and is extremely proud to now be a part of this iconic community market.

With over 35 years in the food distribution business, Jim has a unique perspective on the Market. He is familiar with the farmers, growers and producers as well as the top chefs and purveyors in the Washington, DC Metro area. His knowledge will be put into good use with new local items and special events, highlighting certain products as well as introducing the community to some of our area’s finest chefs.

To that end, The Market at River Falls is proud to offer a curated selection of high-quality meats, seafood, produce, baked goods and prepared items from only the finest vendors, including products from local producers such as: Grayson Farms Beef, Stackowski Cured Meats, Gordy’s Pickle Jar, Jrink, LaPasta, Soupergirl, Cakelove, Whisked and Firefly Farms, to name a few.

April 22: Day In The Life of Montgomery County 2016

Montgomery Community Media (MCM) is preparing for the fourth annual, “Day in the Life of Montgomery County,” which is set for Friday, April 22. MCM invites local shutterbugs, professional and amateur photographers alike to help capture what your day is like in Montgomery County.

This year MCM is raising community sharing to an entirely new level. Every digital image or video submitted on http://you-report.mymcmedia.org/ will be matched by a $1 donation to benefit Manna Food Center.

 Email your images and videos to pix@mymcmedia.org
 Tweet photos @mymcmedia #ditl.


We welcome all photographs and videos. Use your mobile device or your best digital camera, it does not matter. Remember, the best camera you have is the one in your hand at the moment!

Rules Specific to “A Day in the Life of Montgomery County”

  • All photos must be taken on April 22, from 12 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. within the borders of Montgomery County, MarylandEntries must be submitted by noon Saturday, April 23.
  • There is no limit on the number of photos a person can submit.
  • Submissions can be made by email to pix@mymcmedia.org, one email for each photo.
  • OR tweet photos using @mymcmedia #ditl.
  • Photos and videos can also be uploaded directly via our “You Report” page. A quick registration is required.
  • Only digital photos will be accepted (no prints or scans).
  • All submissions are subject to MCM’s Contributed Content Policy.

Recommendations (Help us showcase your photo.):

  • Please submit full-size resolution images. Recommended image size is at least 1024 x 768 pixels, JPEG or PNG format.
  • We ask that each photo be accompanied by a short description, including a title and photographer‘s name in subject line of email. In the body of your email, include a brief description of the photo, location, date and time. This information will be available with your photo on mymcmedia.org.

Take a look at last year’s “Day in the Life of Montgomery County.”

January 16: Breaking Bread – Continuing the Conversation


Breaking Bread – Continuing the Conversation

When: January 16, 2019, from 4:00 – 5:30 PM

Manna Food Center
9311 Gaither Rd.
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

We are excited to let you know about Manna Food Center’s Breaking Bread project! We’re inviting you to become part of a new network of people who are exploring the underlying causes of and pursuing new solutions to the experience of hunger and food insecurity in Montgomery County. In the coming days, we’ll be hosting Breaking Bread discussions at Manna’s food distribution sites and there will also be Neighbor’s Circles held over dinner throughout the county.

On a regular basis Manna is also creating a space for this network of people to get together monthly to share inspiration, progress on action steps, and explore other community action we can take together on these issues. And, as the name suggests, we will always meet over a shared meal or snack. Please join us!

We hope you will join the conversation on January 19, 2019 and the third Wednesday of every month from 4-5:30pm at Manna Food Center, 9311 Gaither Rd., Gaithersburg MD 20895. Questions? Contact Angela Whitmal at 240-268-2527 or angela@mannafood.org. Let us know if you can make it!


Breaking Bread Logo

April 2-4: 2016 National Food Recovery Dialogue

The Food Recovery Network is excited to host the inaugural 2016 National Food Recovery Dialogue at the University of Maryland, College Park on April 2nd through April 4th.

This epic event will convene student leaders, and other movers and shakers from across the food recovery, food justice, policy and environmental spaces. Through workshops, panels and presentations, we will celebrate our achievements in shifting the culture from food waste to food recovery, and inspire and promote continued leadership and skill-building to tackle the world’s biggest problems with practical solutions.

Manna’s Executive Director, Jackie DeCarlo will be presenting a workshop representing Community Food Rescue, Is Food Recovery a False Solution to Hunger?”

CLICK HERE for REGISTRATION and details about the event!!


March 14: “Chopped” Competition at Paladar

Join Manna’s Nutrition Educator, Lindsey Seegers, as she teams up with Mark Mills of Chocolate & Tomatoes Farm in a Chopped-style competition against Paladar’s Executive Chef, Gregory Webb and Pablo Castillo of Whole Foods Market in the Kentlands.

Judges include: Andrew Metcalf, Bethesda Beat Editor for Bethesda Magazine, Julie Wright, Anchor and Co-Host from WJLA-TV and Gina Dropik, Lakelands Community Association.

Providing entertaining commentary will be sports talk show host Chuck Carroll.


Monday, March 14th
4:30 – 6:30 PM

Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar
203 Crown Park Ave
Gaithersburg, MD 20878


This happy-hour fundraising event features an entertaining competition and lovely passed hors d’ourves.

Space is limited, so call to reserve your spot today! (301) 330-4400.  Suggested donation of $10 at the door.

Notes from the Executive Director – March 2016

Members of the Maryland Hunger Solutions delegation

Have you ever been interrupted while telling an important story?  Or had a call drop in the middle of an important conversation?  These experiences – whether due to technology or even rudeness -can be unsettling.  As human beings we all want to be heard.  It is a natural part of who we are to want to share our experience.

Manna Food Center is honored to touch the lives of 38,627 people every year.  While we can’t have a conversation with each and every client, we believe it is important to listen to those we serve to understand their realities and create common solutions.  In February we had two unique opportunities to listen and learn.  Before a House of Delegates committee in Annapolis, a Manna client, 89 year old Margaret Dubinsky, shared why as a widower with no living children, she relies on Manna’s services and Food Stamps.  She noted,  “When I was younger, I worked as a secretary. I also spent many hours volunteering with my church to provide food for people who were homeless. Now, here I am on the other side of the table, asking for your help.”  On the car ride home from our state capital, Margaret told me how glad she was to be able to help influence policy makers. I told her how inspired Manna is to be a part of her story.

Soon after, a group of eight guests at the Colesville Presbyterian Church accepted an invitation from Manna to “break bread” together before they began their monthly shopping at the choice pantry.  The conversations we had with the group, as well as community members, were another example of how Manna is combining our food distribution service with opportunities to build community and share experiences.  We are also convening dinner sessions and “street conversations” at distribution sites to foster dialogue across lines of difference about what it will take for Montgomery County to be hunger free.

Manna believes that listening and learning will help us work with the community to create opportunities, policies, and programs to end hunger.  We are interested in engaging with you too.  Please consider volunteering, donating, or reaching out to me directly to share your ideas and insights.

Ending hunger: it’s what we do together.

Jackie DeCarlo

Kitchen Confidential: Spices on the Cheap

Lindsey here, sharing another round of my Notes from the Nutritionist: a series of kitchen tips we include in each Manna box to help families produce healthy, home-cooked meals.

Now, raise your hand if this has ever been you:

  • Spot drool-worthy food photo.
  • Glance / scroll down to discover accompanying recipe.
  • Vow you are going to attempt this life-changing recipe in Your Very Own Kitchen.
  • Check out the ingredient list, note the recipe calls for more than eight spices.
  • Slump head in discouragement.
  • Reheat leftovers instead.

I’ve got you covered…

Notes from Nutritionist, Spices to Stock, Part 1

Spices are a fantastic way to throw together a quick, wholesome, flavor-packed meal. Price doesn’t have to hinder every part of eating healthy. Hope you enjoyed Part II of our last blog post, The Prepared Pantry, with these remarkably simple tips to improve your spice rack this week.

February 24: Eat at Home: Why Buying Local Matters

Please join the Montgomery County Food Council for their next public event:

Eat at Home: Why Buying Local Matters

Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 7-9pm

Denizens Brewing Co.

1115 East-West Highway, Silver Spring


What impact do local food businesses make on our economy? How can Montgomery County residents shop and dine to make a difference in our community? What are the benefits of buying local and what does “local” mean?

  • Featured local food business leaders including Silver Diner, Dawson’s Market, Denizens Brewing Co., and Ricciuti’s Restaurant share their stories of growing a business and overcoming challenges;
  • Local product samples from Dress it Up Dressing, Chouquette, Baklava Couture, Chocolates & Tomatoes Farm, Urban Winery, Cherry Glen Farm, and Fresh Baguette;
  • State of the Montgomery County food economy report, including the culinary incubator and food hub project updates.

Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy delicious local food and beverage and learn more about how you can support a robust, sustainable food system in Montgomery County!


Click here to Register to attend this FREE event!

Visit www.mocofoodcouncil.com/ or email mocofoodcouncil@gmail.com for more information.

The Montgome

March 1: Montgomery County Food Council: Eat Local Challenge

Montgomery County Food Councils’ Eat Local Challenge is back with new basket ingredients!

For those who don’t know, The Eat Local Challenge is an opportunity for home cooks to take local, seasonal ingredients and create their own recipes using at least three of the following ingredients:

(We have included local farms or stores where each of these items can be purchased in Montgomery County. Please note that availability of farm products varies throughout the growing season.)

Our Winter Basket ingredients:

RumTwin Valley Distillers in Rockville, MD, found in most local MoCo Liquor Stores
ApplesButler’s Orchard in Germantown, MD
Winter SquashComus Market in Dickerson, MD
LeeksPlow and Stars Farm in Poolesville, MD
BeerDenizens Brewing Company in Silver Spring, MD and 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville, MD
KaleChocolates and Tomatoes Farm in Poolesville, MD, available at the Olney Farm Market
TurnipsRed Wiggler Community Farm in Clarksburg, MD
BeefSavage & Sons Farm in Dickerson, MD
Swiss ChardChocolates and Tomatoes Farm in Poolesville, MD, available at the Olney Farm Market

Final recipe submissions are due by March 1st

Recipes will be tested and judged by local chefs and culinary students; the winning recipe will be selected based on taste, creativity, and use of ingredients.

A winner will be announced on April 1st.

Winning recipes will be featured on the Food Council website and Facebook page, and possible other prizes include:
Various gift cards to local businesses, restaurants, and markets
The winning dish featured on the menu of a local restaurant and/or in the prepared food section of a local market

Each submission must include: Name, City/Town, Recipe Name, Step-by-step Recipe with full ingredient list, and a sentence or two about why you choose to eat and buy local.

All recipe submissions become the property of the Montgomery County Food Council

We look forward to seeing the delicious recipes our followers will create!

For more information, to learn more about the contest rules, or if you have any other questions, please email Eatlocalmoco@gmail.com


February 17: Whole Foods Market 5% Day

All five Montgomery County Whole Foods Market locations will be participating in 5% Day! On Wednesday, February 17th, Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Kentlands, Rockville & Silver Spring Whole Foods will be donating 5% of all sales to Manna Food Center.


You can help a neighbor in need, Shop and Donate at the same time!



Bethesda: 5269 River Rd., Bethesda MD 20816

Friendship Heights: 4420 Willard Ave., Chevy Chase MD 20815

Kentlands: 316 Kentlands Blvd., Gaithersburg MD 20878

Rockville: 11355 Woodglen Dr., Rockville MD 20852

Silver Spring: 833 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring MD 20910



Notes from the Executive Director – February 2016


At one time in my career, I was an AmeriCorps director and was motivated by the agency’s notion that the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday should be considered “A Day On, Not a Day Off.”  Since coming to Manna, I’ve been impressed by how the Montgomery County community comes together on the 3rd Monday of January for a Day of Service.

This past MLK Holiday was particularly special and other food agencies like ours will benefit from the community’s generosity.  We hosted our annual MLK Food Drive at 27 Giant stores across the County.  We owe a huge thank you to the hundreds of food drive volunteers, Giant staff, and store patrons, who made the collection of 29,647 pounds of food possible.

But the service didn’t end with the food drive!  We also participated in the service event led by the Montgomery County Volunteer Center, on MLK Day to make 100,000 meals.  I was fortunate, along with dozens of other nonprofit representatives, to gather with 2,700 volunteers at the Bethesda Marriott Conference Center.   The volunteers assembled meal packets that consisted of rice, beans and other savory ingredients.   In an initiative with the anti-hunger group, Outreach, and thanks to the support of Fund for Montgomery, the Marriott was a hub of activity as citizens and elected officials gathered to help make Montgomery County hunger free. Click here to see highlights of the event.

FullSizeRenderManna now has more than 16,000 food packets to share with the community.  Manna will, of course, include the packets as part of our regular monthly boxes during the winter months.   As the Center of ending hunger in our County, we will also be sharing these packets with soup kitchens, shelters, pantries and other food programs.  Please let us know if your agency or place of worship would like to benefit from the Dr. King service day success.  Reach me directly:  jackie@mannafood.org.

If the spirit of service over MLK weekend is any indication, it is going to be a great 2016!


Jackie DeCarlo
Executive Director

Join us on February 4 to learn about critical changes to SNAP/Food Stamp eligibility in Montgomery County.

April 7: Heroes Against Hunger Awards Reception

Presented by Giant Food & Kaiser Permanente

Thursday, April 7th 
5:30 – 8:00 PM
VisArts at Rockville Town Square

Join Manna for a unique event honoring leaders in our community who are making a difference in the fight against hunger.

Reception will feature a social hour, heavy hors d’oeuvres & a meaningful program.   

2016 Hero Honorees Include

Shondra Jenkins
Executive Director, Sodexo Foundation &
Director, Community Relations, Sodexo

Giant Food


Individual Tickets Pricing:  $75
Space is limited so purchase your tickets today!

To partner with Manna as an Event Sponsor, Click Here



February 1-29: Herson’s Honda Food Drive

Donate and Save at Herson’s Honda in Rockville! Donate to Herson’s food drive during the month of February and save on services and new Honda’s. Donations will benefit Manna Food Center and the Montgomery County community!

$100 OFF: Any purchase or lease (per canned food item donation) *This offer is not valid with any other offers. Maximum discount is $300.00. Offer Expires 2/29/2016

15% OFF: Any service (with a donation of 5+ canned food items) *This offer is not valid on the purchase of tires, brakes or parts. Maximum discount is $200.00. Offer Expires 2/29/2016

Hersons Honda Flyer


Due March 1: Community Food Rescue Mini-Grants

The Community Food Rescue Mini-Grants Program is back, with support from Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, the Mead Family Foundation, and Burness!  There are opportunities to receive grants for improving capacity and infrastructure of the local food recovery system, as well as for inventive and collaborative approaches in food recovery. The Mini-Grants process will be managed again this year by Intentional Philanthropy and Manna Food Center, with the generous support of the Mead Family Foundation. Applications can be requested from astoria@intentionalphilanthropy.com and are due by Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

This Mini-Grants Program will amplify efforts underway by Community Food Rescue (CFR), a network coordinated by Manna Food Center to develop a food recovery system throughout Montgomery County, Maryland. Please become familiar with the goals and approaches of CFR by visiting www.communityfoodrescue.org.  This network enhances the good work of businesses, agencies, and organizations that already recover perfectly good food before it is thrown away by building capacity through grants, training and other resources.

Please CLICK HERE for a detailed overview of CFR Mini-Grants Program application guidelines, including:

  • Funding Criteria
  • Eligibility Requirements
  • Grant Decision & Funding Period
  • Grant Conditions

February 4: Change to SNAP Benefits Information/Discussion

Over 1,500 Montgomery County residents may be impacted by a recent change in SNAP policy. Effective January 1 “able-bodied adults without dependents” can only receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits for 3 months in a 3 year period. This change may impact over 1500 Montgomery County residents, causing many to lose their benefits starting in April.

To better understand who might be affected and how these changes will impact County residents, Manna Food Center is hosting an information session on Thursday, February 4th from 2p-3:30p at the Casey Health Institute in Gaithersburg.  Staff from Maryland Hunger Solutions will discuss the new time limit and ways that social service providers can effectively support individuals impacted by this rule.

This is a public event, but space is limited. Please RSVP by visiting http://tinyurl.com/z3j6x9u, scanning the QR code below or e-mailing jenna@mannafood.org.


When: Thursday, February 4th (2-3:30pm)

Where: Casey Health Institute, 800 S. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg, MD 20877


The Simple Truth About Your Kitchen Cupboard

Lindsey here. After being snowed in at home for four straight days, making meals from every canned bean and frozen vegetable I could combine, I got to the grocery store yesterday. Even after the winter storm has settled, some grocery shelves are still emptier than usual.


Having a stocked kitchen cupboard is not only your key to snowed-in sanity, but also a time and money-saver. When money is tight at the end of the week or the end of the month, stocked ingredients can turn your pantry items into a substantial, appetizing meal.


I developed this infographic for our Notes From the Nutritionist series: kitchen tips we include in each Manna box to help families produce healthy, home-cooked meals.


The Prepared Pantry infographic

Want to learn more about reading food labels and shopping for the healthiest pantry items on a budget? Come to one of our grocery store tours around Montgomery County, just contact me at Lindsey@mannafood.org

February 6 – 14: CCACC Chinese Lunar New Year Festival

The Chinese Culture and Community Service Center (CCACC) will host the Annual Lunar New Year Festival in Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg on Saturday, February 6th through February 14th.

Manna’s Executive Director, Jackie DeCarlo will be attending the opening ceremony on February 6th that will kick off a two-week long celebration to include live entertainment, colorful lion dances, special events and hands-on activities. Performance, Displays & Workshops throughout the celebration!


Event:                            Chinese Lunar New Year Festival

Gathering Place:      Center Stage at Lakeforest Mall 

                                         701 Russell Avenue, Gaithersburg MD 20877          

Date:                             February 6th , 7th, 13th, 14th,  2015


We look forward to celebrating the Lunar New Year celebration with the Montgomery County community! 

CCACC Lunar New Year Celebration


January 18: Join us for Dr. King Day Service 2016

We are honored to once again participate in the MLK Day of Service as our community works to be a hunger-free county.  Along side community partners, volunteers will prepare 100,000 meals to be distributed through Manna Food Center.

Join us at the

Bethesda North Marriott Conference Center

for the service project and to enjoy the Nonprofit Fair.

5701 Marinelli Road
Rockville, MD 20852

Date: January 18, 2016
Time: 1 – 3 pm

January 8: Hungry Harvest to be Featured on Shark Tank


Food-justice startup will share its innovative business idea on the January 8, 2016 episode

BALTIMORE, Md.Hungry Harvest, a Maryland business aimed at eliminating food waste and ending hunger in the United States, is set to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank on January 8, 2016 at 9:00pm EST. It is the first to appear on the show from the Washington DC/Maryland area, as well as the first ‘ugly produce’ business to pitch to the Sharks. Founder & CEO Evan Lutz, a Pikesville (Baltimore suburb) native and a 2014 University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business graduate, will pitch his business idea to the Sharks, in hopes that they will help him in promoting food justice.


Lutz co-founded Hungry Harvest in May 2014 after learning that six billion pounds of fresh produce is thrown away every year. The organization sells “surplus” produce, produce that would otherwise be wasted because of its odd size or shape. This produce is no different quality than produce you would buy at a grocery store or farmer’s market.  Hungry Harvest delivers a box of surplus fruits and vegetables to subscribers in the Maryland and D.C. areas every week, year round, for discounted prices. For every box delivered, one is donated to those in need.


“Having the opportunity to appear on Shark Tank is a dream come true,” says Lutz. “I believe that Shark Tank is the vehicle to help propel our local, mission-driven business to scale across the country.”

To date, Hungry Harvest has recovered 300,000 pounds of produce from going to waste and delivered 100,000 pounds to those in need. With the help of one of the Sharks, Lutz foresees those numbers significantly increasing as they expand across the US.


During the show, local viewers watching will have the opportunity to participate in a trivia contest on social media to win six months worth of free produce. Questions will be episode-related.


Remember to tune in on January 8th at 9:00pm EST to see if one of the Sharks will help Lutz to bring his dreams to fruition. Shark Tank has reinvigorated entrepreneurship in America, and Lutz, along with the rest of the team at Hungry Harvest, is looking for the chance to secure a deal that could eventually lead to ending hunger and food waste in the United States.


About Hungry Harvest: Hungry Harvest, LLC is on a mission to end food waste and hunger in the US. We deliver surplus produce to subscribers every week, year round, for discounted prices. For every box delivered, we donate a box to those in need. We sell produce with purpose.

Listen Up: A New Year’s Challenge

Lindsey here. Despite all the responsibilities, I find the peace of being an adult some days is being alright with not having All The Answers. Nutrition research evolves constantly; scientific reports pop into the headlines about what not to eat this week, confusing the public.  The role of Manna’s Nutrition Educator implies a vast knowledge base that intimidates even me. Being relatively new to my career, I can sometimes slip into a panic, convincing myself that perfect strangers will see “nutrition” in my job title and, on the spot, start quizzing me on GMOs, insoluble fiber or sources of Vitamin A (sweet potato, carrots, beef, kale, collards).


In recent conversations with families who receive food through our Smart Sacks program, one mother said she doesn’t know what to do with dried beans, another shared her frustration with cooking brown rice on a hurried weeknight. Before I could offer suggestions, the other parents spoke up:

  • “I make a brown rice salad with corn, celery, green pepper, sweet pepper, and carrot. The dressing is lemon and mayo, and it is good three days in the fridge. Sometimes I add chicken.”
  • “I make a sauce of tomato, sweet red pepper, onion, and fish. I parboil the brown rice, then finish cooking rice in the sauce so the rice is red and my kids don’t see that the rice is brown.”

With the gradual acceptance of not needing to have all the answers comes the opportunity to listen. Rather than spending the hour telling parents about the healthy dishes in which I use similar ingredients—and assuming my imaginary children adore my every culinary concoction—I took notes. Lots of notes.

One mother, from Nigeria, shared that the only beans she knows are black eyed peas. She often incorporates them into a porridge with yams and corn. Another parent, from Paraguay, says that beans are expensive in South America, and that she, too, is unaccustomed to cooking beans on a regular basis. A third parent, from Mexico voices her favorite Manna item: pink beans, which her family loves in a salad with scallion, tomato, cilantro, and canned salmon. The parents in attendance were eager to go home and try this one.


It’s a new year now, and from glancing at the grocery store magazines or health websites, it appears this is the month to reinvent the wheel: cook new foods, whip up creative lunches and dinner for your family.
My afternoon with these creative moms sparked a simpler idea.


Ask you friends and neighbors what they’re cooking this week. Isolation can be the biggest risk factor to one’s health, so get out and mingle. Cook with a friend, cook for a friend, pass along a new recipe, or have your kids select a new ingredient to cook at home. Isn’t it a relief that we don’t have to do everything by ourselves? The people around us have delicious wisdom and experience to share if we would just take the time to ask and listen.



Notes from the Executive Director – January 2016


As a big goal setter, I am the kind of person who loves New Year’s because I appreciate the chance to pause and make resolutions while also taking stock of progress on commitments made.  Yet at the same time, I am not much of a party-person and am regularly asleep way before midnight.  It has been awhile since I have seen the famed ball drop or toasted the arrival of the New Year.  This paradox is similar to where Manna Food Center finds itself—we live in a county with tremendous assets—diverse people, a vibrant mix of urban and rural communities, and policies and programs that work to share prosperity and opportunity broadly.  Yet, at the same time, approximately 78,000 of our neighbors are not always sure where their next meal is coming from in the year 2016.

The staff and Board of Manna embrace the challenge of such contradictions, hopeful that together we will find solutions to complicated issues.  This is not unwarranted optimism borne out of too many holiday treats, but it is a vision grounded in our commitment to tested approaches and fresh ideas.

Manna has a lot of plans for 2016.  We will:

  • Help feed more people by wasting less food: As leader of the Community Food Rescue network, Manna is inspired by the values of a sharing economy, powered by advances in technology, and dedicated to having a collective impact with volunteers, donors and partners. Our goal is to increase the amount of food recovered by 20% by the summer of 2017.  Join us!
  • Accelerate efforts to reach elementary school children: Our Karen Goldberg Smart Sacks program added another 120 students as the number of students eligible for free and reduced meals rapidly climbs in our county.  With financial support Manna will be able to add staff to this program, continuing to build capacity within our 61 partner schools.
  • Share food and conversation with clients: While it is our daily honor to provide food to those experiencing hunger, in 2016 Manna will also create extra opportunities to “break bread” with our clients. We want to have dialogue about supporting self-sufficiency and creating new solutions to end hunger.
  • Embark on a three year strategic planning process: Just as we listen to clients, we will also be assessing the views and perspectives of our donors, staff and community leaders to chart the next phase of Manna Food Center’s work. Even with a legacy of more than three decades of community impact, Manna has never been satisfied with the status quo.  Committed to making sure that we fulfill our mission means that Manna need to assess our values and programs while planning thoughtfully and ambitiously to end hunger and promote prosperity.  As a dedicated supporter, you will be invited to participate through surveys and other feedback mechanisms.  Thank you in advance for your help in shaping our future.

Click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter and stay up to date on all that will be happening during this New Year.  Please continue to reach out to me personally if I can be of service as we work together to  fight hunger and feed hope in this great, if complicated, county of ours. And, of course,

Happy 2016 to you and yours,


Jackie DeCarlo
Executive Director

December 11 – 23: News Generation, Vote For Manna!

Vote For Manna!

News Generation will be donating to Manna and two other organizations, located in Montgomery County. Each organization listed is personally meaningful to a News Generation team member.

Voting has started and will continue until Wednesday, December 23 at noon Eastern. Manna needs your vote!

  • The organization with the greatest percentage of votes will receive $1,500.
  • The organization with the second greatest percentage will receive $1,000.
  • And finally, the organization with the third greatest percentage of votes will receive $500.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE!  Please vote and share the voting link with others to do the same!
Thank you for your participation this holiday season!

Click here to learn more about News Generation.

November 28- January 3: Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Display



Please come and enjoy the 2015 Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Display at 20304 Lubar Way, Brookeville, MD.   Stroll along the paths to see the snowman, penguins, candyland, polar bears and so much more.

Donations accepted for Manna Food Center (cash/check, non-perishable food items), and the Nina Hyde Breast Cancer Center part of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Parking available on Lubar Way on the left after entering in the common area and at the entrance to Lubar Drive. These areas will be identified with signs.  Please park here and walk down to the display.

Handicap parking in front of 20309 Lubar Way.

  • Starting Saturday, November 28  from 6:30-10:30
  • Open Thursday – Sunday from November 30-December 16
  • Closed to visitors Mon-Weds  for the first three weeks of December
  • Open 7 days a week beginning December 17 – January 3, 2016.  Times 6:30-10:30
  • Lights and display will be open later on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve
  • Signs at Lubar Way entrance posting dates, hours and if closed due to inclement weather


December 3: Manna Attends Environmental Impact Public Meeting

Manna, as the Coordinator of Community Food Rescue, is responsible for helping shape policies related to composting of food that can’t be shared with people or animals, and will be in attendance at the  Environmental Impact Public Meeting. This meeting takes place Thursday, December 3rd, 12-1:30pm in Derwood at the Agricultural History Farm Park: “On-Farm Composting in Montgomery County: Opportunities, Resources, and Challenges.” The main goal of the event is to share information on new opportunities for on-farm composting due to recent regulation changes.


December 9: Ending Obesity in Montgomery County

Manna’s very own Jenna Umbriac, Director of Nutrition Programs will be presenting at the Ending Hunger in Montgomery County, Breaking the Cycle Conference, she will be speaking about the barrier to accessing healthy food in Montgomery County. Jenna will be joined by many other speakers in the community, including one of Manna’s past Board Members, Marla Caplon, Director of Nutrition and Supervisor of Health and P.E., Montgomery County Public Schools.

This Healthy Montgomery Eat Well Be Active Partnership conference will be held on Wednesday, December 9th, 9:00am at:

Agricultural History Farm, 18410 Muncaster Rd., Derwood MD. 20855



Panel Organizations:

Manna Food Center

Montgomery County Food Council

Kaiser Permanente

Women, Infants, and Children, WIC

Montgomery County Department of Planning

Montgomery County Public Schools

CCI Health & Wellness Centers

Unity Health Care Health Center: Upper Cardozo

Montgomery County Department of Recreation


December 5: Chefs CAN Cook Competition, Downtown Silver Spring

Saturday, December 5, 10:30 AM

AG Kitchen’s Alex Garcia faces off against Manna’s Director of Nutrition Programs, Jenna Umbriac in a friendly Chopped-style competition, using surprise CANNED ingredients, donated by Whole Foods Market, Silver Spring. It all goes down during FRESHFARM Market at the Fountain Plaza Stage in Downtown Silver Spring!

With celebrity emcee Tommy McFly and special judges Carol Sugarman of Bethesda Magazine and Meredith Bethune of DC EATER, this unCANny culinary exhibition is not to be missed!

December 5: Fair Hill Shops Winter Festival

Free Winter Festival!

Saturday, December 5th 1pm- 4pm

Fair Hill Shops welcomes the community to celebrate a Winter Festival and to donate canned food items to benefit Manna Food Center on Saturday, December 5 from 1p – 4p.

Each donation will receive a cool LED light-up mug with a package of Ghirardelli Hot Cocoa!

Festival activities include:

  • Photos with Santa
  • S’mores making
  • Hay wagon rides
  •  Live music caroling with Phil Kominski
  • Cookie decorating with Harris Teeter
  • Hot chocolate from Panera and TD Bank
  • Craft making with The Greene Turtle
  • Balloon sculptor & face painter

Winter Festival Details!


December 3: Rockville Town Square Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting

Rockville Town Square Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting!

Save the date! Celebrate the holidays at the Square with their annual Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting event on Thursday, December 3rd from 6:30-9pm.  Customers can bring a donation in exchange for their horse and carriage ride!

Schedule of Events
Date: Thursday, December 3, 2015
Time: 6:30 – 9:00 pm
5:30-6:30pm: Live Holiday Music
6:30pm: Tree Lighting Ceremony & Santa’s Arrival, hosted by WUSA9’s Nikki Burdine
7pm: Dawn Crafton Dance Studio Performance, Main Stage near Thai Pavilion
7:45pm: The Next Ice Age Ice Dancing Performances, Ice rink
8pm: Theaterpalooza Performance, Main Stage Near Thai Pavilion
7 – 9pm: Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus (Bring your own camera!)
Horse & Carriage Rides with non-perishable food or cash donation*
Holiday treats for sale on the plaza, provided by Dawson’s Market
Strolling entertainment
Balloon art

 * Food and monetary donations from the horse and carriage rides will benefit Manna Food Center!

Event is weather permitting. Please check the Rockville Town Square Twitter and Facebook for live updates.

Click here for event details!


November 20: Rio Washingtonian Center Holiday Tree Lighting

Friday, November 20 from 6-8pm

Join Rio Washingtonian Center on the Lakefront Plaza (near Uncle Julio’s and Joe’s Crab Shack) as they kick-off the holiday season with the annual tree lighting celebration!

Family-friendly events and activities including:

Meet Santa & Mrs. Claus (Santa will be arriving at approximately 6:30pm and must leave promptly at 8pm to get back to the North Pole)

Samples from Restaurants and Shops

Strolling Holiday Entertainment

Horse and Carriage Rides

Giveaways and more!


Drop off a canned food item for Manna Food Center at the RIO Washingtonian Guest Services Tent!


CLICK HERE for printable flyer

* Please note that the Balloon Twisters, Santa & Mrs. Claus and the horse and carriages will be leaving promptly at 8pm, please expect the lines to close for these activities prior 7:30pm.


Register to win a VIP Experience from RIO Washingtonian!

One winner will receive VIP parking, dinner for four at Copper Canyon ($200), and cut-the-line passes to Santa, the Carousel, and horse and carriage rides. CLICK HERE to enter.

Rio Tree Lighting Sign

November 16 – 20: Results Leadership Group Food Drive

From November 16th to 20th, Results Leadership Group will be hosting a food drive in the WRIT One Central Plaza office building, with donations to benefit Manna. Office residents and community members are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to the Results Leadership Group office at 11300 Rockville Pike, Suite 1001 during the week of the drive.

WHAT: Non-Perishable Food Drive
WHEN: November 16th to November 20th
WHERE: 11300 Rockville Pike Suite1001
Rockville MD 20852
WHY: To alleviate Hunger in Montgomery County, MD!

Click here for more information.

November 14: Downtown Silver Spring Foodie Festivus Tree Lighting

Join the fun at Downtown Silver Spring on the Fountain Plaza, Saturday, November 14th at 6pm to light up Well-Seasoned Greetings and kick off our season-long Foodie Festivus! Well-Seasoned Greetings, an impressive 30-foot public art installation, features illuminated take-out containers, “u-tinsel,” spatula snowflakes and topped with a stunning glass bottle star.

  • Host Tommy McFly
  • Food Tastings
  • Live Music
  • Drink Specials
  • Ice Skating Santa


Bring a canned food donation to benefit Manna Food Center!

Click here for more information!

To Be a “Foodie”

My name is Lindsey Seegers, and I hereby admit to photographing my dinner.
My name is Lindsey Seegers, and I hereby admit to photographing my dinner.

Lindsey here. Did you know that FOOD DAY began in 1975? When I first heard of a designated FOOD DAY, I’ll admit: I thought it was just another excuse for foodies to get together to celebrate balsamic reductions, kale chips, quinoa, and squash bowls.


While I, too, find food glorious and glamorous, I work at Manna Food Center, where pallets piled high with hundreds of pounds of butternut squash and onions and cabbage make veggies feel, well, far from trendy. Food is this whole “thing” now, especially to millennials like myself. Eating is not merely a physiological obligation, it is a pastime to be tweeted and instagrammed, shared and envied.

Yep, I came home from the farmer's market and took a picture of my swiss chard. Guilty.
Yep, I came home from the farmer’s market and took a picture of my swiss chard. Guilty.

There are magazines and television networks and podcasts making a big deal out of food. And while, even as a foodie, I can tire of the ‘Ten New Ways To Cook Tomatoes’ posts, I am glad there is an increasing conversation around food. Because food is a big deal, and how we share it is even bigger. There are many ways, big and small, we can help improve food access and food quality; and many stories that illustrate why we should:


Through Manna, I meet individuals who cannot afford food for the month. I hear the firsthand account of an elderly man who makes a single can of sliced green beans last for four meals. I listen to a voicemail from a mother who did not have enough food for the entire family to last the weekend, until her daughter brought home brown rice and oatmeal and canned produce in her Smart Sacks bag. At the Clarksburg Farmer’s Market last month, I met a farmer whose crops didn’t respond to this summer’s weather and faces financial loss as a result.


While food has become a source of exploration, experimentation, and joy in my own personal life, at my day job I’m often reminded that food is always a serious matter. It turns out, FOOD DAY is, too; it’s about improving our diets as well as our food policies. October 24 is a day to resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level. In 2015, Food Day’s theme is “Toward a Greener Diet.” FoodDay.org says, “Eating Real can save your own health and put our food system on a more humane, sustainable path. With America’s resources, there’s no excuse for hunger, low wages for food and farm workers, or inhumane conditions for farm animals.”


Although October 24th has passed, every day is truly “food day” at Manna Food Center, where we take steps to end hunger through food distribution, education, food rescue, and advocacy. Surf our site to find out how we’re working towards change, and how you can take part.



October 21 – 30: “Food For Fines” MoCo Public Libraries

Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) will be accepting canned goods and non-perishable food items to pay for library fines October 21st through October 30th.

One food item brought in will equal $1 off on library fines! Food items should be taken to the library’s circulation desk. All food collected will be donated to Manna!

Donations should include only shelf-stable foods, such as canned fruits, vegetables and meats, dried beans, brown rice, quinoa, low sugar cereals, baby food, formula and vegetarian items. Home-canned items, opened foods, or foods past their expiration dates will not be accepted.

Customers must have existing fines or hold fees to participate in the Food for Fines program, but anyone may donate food items at the libraries during the drive. Food for Fines donations cannot be used towards fees for lost or damaged materials, collection agency fees, lost card fees or other charges.

For more information, contact local library branches, or visit https://montgomerycountypubliclibraries.blogspot.com/2018/10/food-for-fines-2018.html.

October 21 – November 3: Ten Thousand Villages Food Drive

Ten Thousand Villages will be hosting a food drive to benefit Manna Food Center, October 21st through November 3rd.  Anyone who donates a food item will receive a 25% off coupon toward one full price item, to be used once through November 3rd.

Donations drop off: 107 Gibbs St., Unit D, Rockville 20850




About Ten Thousand Villages in Rockville, MD

Ten Thousand Villages in Rockville, MD, is a fair trade retailer of artisan-crafted home decor, personal accessories and gift items from across the globe. Featuring products from more than 130 artisan groups in some 38 countries, we are part of a network of over 390 retail outlets throughout the United States selling Ten Thousand Villages products.

As one of the world’s oldest and largest fair trade organizations, Ten Thousand Villages has spent more than 60 years cultivating trading relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work and consumers have access to distinctive handcrafted items. We seek to establish long-term buying relationships in places where skilled artisans are under- or unemployed, and in which they lack other opportunities for income. A founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), Ten Thousand Villages sees fair trade as an alternative approach to conventional international trade.

We are located in the new town square in Rockville. Gibbs Street runs parallel between North Washington Street and Maryland Avenue. Gibbs St. is a one way street connecting East Middle Lane to Bealls Ave. Park at the parking garages at Maryland Avenue and North Washington Street. Metered street parking is available as well.

2 hours of free garage parking with any purchase.


November 15: Music for Food Concert in Bethesda to benefit Manna

The Tempo Giusto Ensemble performs works by Handel, Haydn, Jacob, and Bach in a concert to help end hunger in the DC area. Featuring the talents of young performing artists Emma Resmini and Paul Wiancko, the ensemble partners with Music for Food with all financial proceeds going to support Manna Food Center.

[schema type=”event” evtype=”MusicEvent” url=”https://www.facebook.com/events/1500634860264133/” name=”Music for Food Concert” sdate=”2015-11-15″ stime=”02:00 pm” street=”Christ Lutheran Church 8011 Old Georgetown Rd” city=”Bethesda” state=”MD” postalcode=”20814″ country=”US” ]

How Did I Get So Lucky?

wheaton Catholic CharitiesLindsey here. This week, I visited our clients at one of Manna’s busiest distribution sites, Catholic Charities in Wheaton. After receiving food, about twenty people joined me for a community conversation and nutrition workshop inside Catholic Charities.


In my two years at Manna, I have led many workshops, conversed with many clients, listened to their stories. But there were two things about this evening that surprised me.


Garnering participants for any event can prove challenging. People have obligations with work and family, not to mention transportation hurdles. I hoped that advertising snacks might prove appealing to those leaving home around dinnertime.


We first took turn introducing ourselves and naming something “good or new” that happened to us in the past few days. Think about that phrase for a moment: happened to us. For so many people who find themselves in need of Manna’s food, it is not always the actions one takes in life that leads to poverty, but rather life happening to a person. Chronic illness, job loss, medical bills, divorce, relocation—the “stuff happens” circumstances. As the men and women in attendance listed their “something good”, the responses went like this:

  • “I was called for work three times last week. I don’t have any calls this week, but maybe in a few days I will get a job. Working last week was good.”
  • “I just got out of the hospital, so nothing feels good right now.”
  • “I woke up today and I was able to get here. That’s good.”

There is never a time for me that these stories will feel commonplace or acceptable. They are simultaneously heart-wrenching and maddening.

jobless looking for a job

At Manna, we serve families challenged by food insecurity who don’t always know when that next meal will be available—or the quality of the food they can afford. I spent so many years studying food insecurity, I don’t often think about our families as physically hungry. Hunger is that state we have all experienced, that discomfort relieved by eating. Where some of us can alleviate that hunger with food whenever we want, families facing food insecurity have limited foods available to them. The next meal may be out of reach financially, geographically, or both. When I visit their children in school, I rest assured these kids have breakfast and lunch among the safety of their peers.


But on Tuesday night, I spent time with their parents, and with unemployed singles. This group responded to my spread of apples, cheeses and whole grain crackers as if they had not eaten all day. It was at the end of class, when I passed out the leftover apples and boxes of crackers that I realized: maybe they hadn’t.

By the time I arrived home after class, it was just 30 minutes before I typically go to bed. Still, I stared at my bursting pantry and rummaged through the fridge, then freezer, eventually deciding I would stay up late to digest my impromptu dinner so I would not wake up hungry.


For no good reason, I have that choice. For now, my husband and I still have jobs to afford our house, our food and our fun. For now, we have our health and separate cars to get to our full-time jobs, and to the multiple grocery stores we frequent. For no good reason—not because I am good or worthy or luckier than most: I woke up to a refrigerator with multiple options for breakfast, I packed a lunch I had time to cook, I’m returning home to a delicious, healthy and homemade dinner. I have food in my home, with plenty to share.


For no good reason, I have that choice.


October 24: Taste of Downtown Crown event to benefit Manna

What/Why: Downtown Crown restaurants offer tastes of their signature dishes while you enjoy live music, a beer garden and more! Tickets for food and beer will be sold on site and all proceeds will benefit Manna Food.

Downtown Crown chefs offer tastings of their signature dishes while you enjoy the beer garden presented by Old Town Pour House.

– Live Music
– Photo booth
– Giveaways and More!
– Plus purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win some exciting prizes!

Tasting tickets are two for $5 or seven tastes and one free beer for $15

100% of all ticket sales benefit Manna Food Center

More details available HERE.

CHOPPED: the votes are in, and they are delicious

Lindsey here, with some photos of what we’ve been up to. I hope you came hungry…

DSC_9051  DSC_9000

Last week, Manna’s Nutrition Team (Jenna & Lindsey) enjoyed a second annual friendly-competition of CHOPPED! at the Clarksburg Farmer’s Market. With crisp produce from Scenic View Orchards, Chef Charley and Team Manna went knife-to-knife for the grand prize: bragging rights.

green beans apples chopped knife


Our dishes were very different. Chef Charley went the tartine route, topping herbed bread with marinated beets, heirloom tomatoes, and cheese. What did Jenna and I make? Check out the recipe below!


Three common fruits and veggies transform into an unexpected, aromatic autumn sidedish. Stir in chickpeas for a vegetarian entrée, or serve alongside your favorite protein and brown rice.


Cook time: less than 20 minutes


1 pint fresh green beans, tips trimmed & sliced into 1 inch pieces

5 yukon gold potatoes, ½ inch dice

4 apples (we used Gala), diced

3 tablespoons cooking fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil; we used half butter, half olive oil)

½ tablespoon curry powder

½ teaspoon saigon cinnamon

1 teaspoon honey

Juice of 1 lemon

¾ teaspoon salt


In a large pan over medium-low heat, heat oil/butter until melted. Sprinkle curry powder and cinnamon into melted butter and stir for 30 seconds. Add potatoes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender. Watch the heat, the potatoes should not get crispy or brown.


Once the potatoes are just fork-tender (not overcooked!), stir in the sliced green beans along with ½ cup water. Increase the heat to medium and cover pan to steam beans for about 2 minutes. Add the apples and stir, covering for 5 minutes. Add more water if the mixture sticks to the pan.


Toss with honey and lemon and taste the mixture: the apples should be slightly soft, the potatos and green beans tender. Add salt and additional curry powder or cinnamon as you like. The curry powder should be present, but not overpowering. Gobble up!

A word or two about spices:

“Curry” is a word that needlessly intimidates unfamiliar eaters. It is simply a sauce of spiced vegetables. The story goes that the British invented Curry Powder to bring the aromatic flavors of Indian cuisine to home kitchens. Store-bought curry powder is just a spice blend of tumeric, ground ginger, coriander, cumin and paprika—flavorful, but not necessarily spicy.

Saigon Cinnamon packs more punch that traditional ground cinnamon. I find it at conventional grocery stores among the jarred spices.


All proceeds from the dollar-votes went to Manna. The votes, for the second year in a row, were split down the middle–meaning shoppers and tasters enjoyed a might delicious morning. Thank you to all who came out!



November 12: Free CFR Food Safety Training in Silver Spring

FREE FOOD SAFETY TRAININGS Announcing Fall Training Schedule
If you work with a food assistance organization or if you are a volunteer food runner, sign up for one of Community Food Rescue’s FREE Safe Food Handling Trainings.Click on a date below to sign up.

Nov. 12 Training at Rainbow Community Development Center, Silver Spring

These FREE two hour trainings are intended for food rescue recipient organization staff and volunteers, and food runners who will be actively engaged in recovering unused surplus food from food businesses.  This abbreviated ServSafe training will cover 4 main areas:

  • Basic Food Safety
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Cross-Contamination prevention
  • Time & Temperature Control

Community Food Rescue food runner guidelines will be covered and each participant will leave with the knowledge needed to safely receive food from donors, transport and deliver rescued food under proper temperature controls.

Insulated bag keeps foods at the correct temperature during a food run. Instructions on the top of the bag, reminds food runners how to handle and transport food safely.
Insulated bag keeps foods at the correct temperature during a food run. Instructions on the top of the bag, reminds food runners how to handle and transport food safely.

The first 15 food assistance organizations to register for CFR’s matching Web application will receive a CFR toolkit to include:

An insulated cooler bag, thermometer and alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, CFR food donation tracking sheets, a temperature control quick reference guide and copy of the ServSafe Employee Guide.


What if I need Spanish translation or Spanish printed materials?

Please contact Teresa Johnson asap if you need a Spanish translator for this training. We will have a limited supply of ServSafe materials in Spanish at no cost to attendee.

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

For registration: Cheryl Kollin, Community Food Rescue 240-491-1958 cheryl@communityfoodrescue.org

For class content: Teresa Johnson, Family Services, Inc. (301) 693-7803 teresa.johnson@fs-inc.org

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

No, we will have your name on our list

How do food businesses, food assistance organizations, and volunteer food runners sign up to participate in CFR’s Free matching Web application?

Visit CFR’s Web app page to get started.

October 10: Harvest Event at First Fruits Farm

Help harvest thousands of pounds of first-rate produce at Frist Fruits Farm. Come join the fun and help your neighbors in need!  Bring your family, friends, neighbors or co-workers!

Date: Saturday, October 10th
Time:  8:30am to approximately 11:30am or 12pm.

Where:  First Fruits Farm near Freeland, MD
Farm is about an hour north of Baltimore.

Volunteers will harvest and bag produce and help load the Manna truck.
Volunteers must be 7+ and those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, 21 or over.
Students can earn SSL hours for this opportunity!

Click Here for details and to sign up today!  

October 20: Free CFR Food Safety Training in Bethesda


Announcing Fall Training Schedule

If you work with a food assistance organization or if you are a volunteer food runner, sign up for one of Community Food Rescue’s FREE Safe Food Handling Trainings.

A CFR volunteer food runner delivers donated food to GaithersburgHELP
A CFR volunteer food runner delivers donated food to GaithersburgHELP

The fall trainings will be held at various locations around the County. Click on a date below to sign up.

Sept. 30 Training at Family Services Inc., Gaithersburg

Oct. 20 Training at Bethesda Green, Bethesda

Nov. 12 Training at Rainbow Community Development Center, Silver Spring

These FREE two hour trainings are intended for food rescue recipient organization staff and volunteers, and food runners who will be actively engaged in recovering unused surplus food from food businesses.  This abbreviated ServSafe training will cover 4 main areas:

  • Basic Food Safety
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Cross-Contamination prevention
  • Time & Temperature Control

Community Food Rescue food runner guidelines will be covered and each participant will leave with the knowledge needed to safely receive food from donors, transport and deliver rescued food under proper temperature controls.

Insulated bag keeps foods at the correct temperature during a food run. Instructions on the top of the bag, reminds food runners how to handle and transport food safely.
Insulated bag keeps foods at the correct temperature during a food run. Instructions on the top of the bag, reminds food runners how to handle and transport food safely.

The first 15 food assistance organizations to register for CFR’s matching Web application will receive a CFR toolkit to include:

An insulated cooler bag, thermometer and alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, CFR food donation tracking sheets, a temperature control quick reference guide and copy of the ServSafe Employee Guide.


What if I need Spanish translation or Spanish printed materials?

Please contact Teresa Johnson asap if you need a Spanish translator for this training. We will have a limited supply of ServSafe materials in Spanish at no cost to attendee.

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

For registration: Cheryl Kollin, Community Food Rescue 240-491-1958 cheryl@communityfoodrescue.org

For class content: Teresa Johnson, Family Services, Inc. (301) 693-7803 teresa.johnson@fs-inc.org

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

No, we will have your name on our list

How do food businesses, food assistance organizations, and volunteer food runners sign up to participate in CFR’s Free matching Web application?

Visit CFR’s Web app page to get started.

Margarine of Error

I spy with my little eye some lofty promises around what looks like a candy bar.kelloggs-fiber

“Get 35% of your daily fiber, antioxidants Vitamin E and zinc, plus whole grains in this delicious flavor from the folks at Kellogg’s FiberPlus®. With tasty ingredients like real peanuts and peanut butter, plus a chocolatey drizzle on top and dipped in more chocolatey goodness on the bottom, these bars make nutritious snacking a real treat.”

Fights cancer!

Strengthens Bones!

Have phrases like these ever caught your eye on a box of food? A high-sodium, sugary kids’ cereal may read, “Made with whole grains! Whole grains support a healthy heart!” 

While whole grains do support a healthy heart, whole grains like plain oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat are healthier grain choices than a sugary cereal. A bag of chips may say “Made with canola oil! Canola oil is low in saturated fat and reduces your risk of heart disease!” Of course, you already know potato chips are not really the way to prevent disease.

WORDS TO WATCH: these phrases can be deceiving
“Promotes”,   “Improves”,   “Defends”,   “Guards against”,   “Boosts”

HEALTHY GROCERY GUIDELINES: these phrases can be helpful

Less, Low, or Reduced (sodium, sugar, or fat)

Lean (cuts of meat)

Good Source of (fiber or vitamins)
The best foods have no labels at all. Foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, beans and fish don’t need to convince anyone what great choices they are! When shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store, away from the packaged and boxed food.

These are just some of the lessons I teach in my weekly Cooking Matters at the Store tours with Manna’s clients. We have offered this class to now over 500 residents of Montgomery County! Of course, the juiciest discussion in my classes is always What’s For Dinner.  That’s why I started Manna’s Healthy Recipe of the Month. If you would like to receive the simple recipes I collect and cook at Manna, just send me an e-mail: Lindsey@mannafood.org

Happy, Healthy New Year to You!


Three Tips to a Healthy New Year

At Manna, I post recipes in our lobby and send out health tips in all of our closed food boxes. While I create them for clients, I’m especially tickled when volunteers and visiting donors take a recipe and tell me what a hit it was with their families.

As Manna’s Nutrition Educator, I like to think my role is to share the good news of good eating with the entire community. Those small, simple choices YOU make around food—that your kids see, your friends and neighbors see—cultivate the conversation that nourishing ourselves, and others, is essential.


Three small steps you can take today:


Eat all of your meals at the table.

Plate of vegetables
Eating while working, driving, or watching TV can lead to mindless over-eating.
Try decreasing your screen time to two hours a day. Tune in for your favorite shows and then find active hobbies you enjoy in place of watching TV. If you’re going to snack while watching your favorite show, this is a great chance to fix a plate of fresh fruit or raw veggies.

Balance out your day.


Grab a tote of apples or pears, a bag of carrots or celery. When you get back from the grocery store, chop up fruits and veggies into snack-sized strips and keep them in the front of the fridge. Or, enjoy as an edible centerpiece on your kitchen table!

Keep healthy snacks in sight.


I certainly can’t type up these yummy vegetable ideas and leave you hanging for delicious dip! Inspired by a visiting nutritionist at Manna: Combine one cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or low-fat doesn’t affect the recipe) with two tablespoons Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb seasoning. Stir and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy this healthy “ranch” dip with all your favorite veggies.
Craving more recipes? Subscribe here: Lindsey@mannafood.org

You Say Potato, I Say Patata

I’ve shared before how much our clients value our Cooking Matter at the Store grocery store tours. We’ve reached over 500 participants in this wonderful program, and at least once a month a client calls to share: “I really never knew that it was cheaper to buy in bulk! I’m saving on my grocery bill and cooking more at home.”

These classes allow Manna to impact the lives—and lower the grocery bills—of so many clients. Just as important are the many partnerships that form among helpers in our community. These tours bring interactive nutrition education to moms groups, teens, adults with disabilities and seniors, as well as individuals transitioning to independent living and employment.


Out of a partnership with AARP Foundation , and their donation to our program, came the opportunity to purchase translation headsets for my nutrition education workshops and classes. An interpreter uses the microphone headset and participants simply tuck transmitters into their pockets to hear my content through earphones. This allows for an uninterrupted, hands-on class with clients.

When Impact Silver Spring requested a Spanish-language store tour, I realized our new equipment made this possible!

potato-3Technology is a remarkable thing, and it’s allowing Manna’s Nutrition Education program to reach clients of all cultures in ways I didn’t imagine just a few months ago. This also means I will be holding a workshop for Rockville seniors in Mandarin next month!

A very special thank you to the many agencies who respect the value of this program, and encourage their clients to hang out with us for an hour to talk—of all things—apples and oranges. With gratitude to AARP Foundation, now we’re also talking manzanas y naranjas.