Breaking Bread 09/16

Manna’s monthly Breaking Bread series continues on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 from 12-1:30pm via Zoom

Join us for this continued exploration of the root causes of food insecurity and new ways to reduce this experience in our community.

COVID and Food Security:  The Impact on the Black and African American Community of Montgomery County

With guest speaker:

Nkossi Dambita, MD, MPH, MS

Director of Clinical Services

African American Health Program

Facilitated by Cynthia Wilson, Community Food Education Program Manager, Manna Food Center

Click this link to sign up and access the Zoom link:


Remember, this is a virtual potluck so bring your lunch!

Manna Food Center and MCPS have been collaborating since mid-March on bulk distributions of weekend bags to support families when MCPS meal sites are not operating (usually Saturday & Sunday).  We have been selecting sites based on convenience to multiple meal site locations as well as in an attempt to address specific needs of communities that don’t have an MCPS meal site nearby. These distributions will continue throughout the fall semester.

This week we will be providing weekend bags on Friday, 09/11 from 11am-1pm.  MCPS school buses and DOT staff will be at the following sites, facilitating:

Argyle Middle School – 2400 Bel Pre Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20906

Montgomery Blair High School – 51 University Blvd E, Silver Spring, MD 20901

Damascus High School – 25921 Ridge Rd, Damascus, MD 20872

Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School – 13737 Wisteria Dr, Germantown, MD 20874
New Hampshire Estates Elementary School – 8720 Carroll Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20903

Gaithersburg ES  – 35 N Summit Ave, Gaithersburg, MD 20877

Quince Orchard HS  – 15800 Quince Orchard Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Galway Elementary – 12612 Galway Dr, Silver Spring, MD 20904

Sargent Shriver ES  – 12518 Greenly St, Silver Spring, MD 20906

The bags are designed to provide a few family-sized pantry staples (canned vegetables, beans, tuna, rice, pasta) for two days as well as provide some foods that kids can prepare themselves (instant oatmeal, fruit cups, milk box.  The number of bags provided to each household is determined by household size and bag inventory at each site.

9:30-11:30 am (Dennis Ave Health Center, Silver Spring). The Food Recovery and Access working group supports the increased recovery of, equitable access to and advocacy for more healthful food for Montgomery County residents. We do this by working with the Food Council leadership to build capacity of food assistance organizations, amplify the work of Community Food Rescue, and integrate local and regional efforts into the work of community, non-profit, business and government stakeholders.

More low-income students have accessed #schoolbreakfast thanks to schools adopting breakfast after the bell service models that move breakfast out of the cafeteria and make it a part of the school day. Learn more with the Food Research & Action Center’s resourcebit.ly/2vkgAPD

The National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, co-sponsored by the Food Research & Action Center and Feeding America, and in cooperation with the National CACFP Forum, draws anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates; federal, state and local government officials; child advocates; representatives of food banks and food rescue organizations; sponsoring organizations and nutrition and anti-obesity groups.

Members of Congress, Hill staff, and key Administration officials attend the conference, provide comments as part of plenary sessions and panels, and join participants at receptions and special events.

The three-day event is packed with numerous networking opportunities, interactive training, content-rich sessions, and a day on Capitol Hill to meet with Members of Congress and their key staffers. Participants share information and learn how to strengthen the quality and reach of federal nutrition programs, learn best outreach and program practices from other states and localities, fill in the gaps in food service for millions of low-income children, and identify creative ideas for new and innovative approaches to ending hunger.

The National CACFP Leadership track brings together the CACFP community to discover best practices, shape change, meet with USDA officials, and learn strategies for successfully implementing the new healthier CACFP meal pattern, identify opportunities for cutting red tape, and building a thriving CACFP program.

Our purpose is to dive deep into the root causes of hunger and poverty and explore new solutions to ending those experiences in our community.  We break bread/share food with one another at these gatherings in recognition of the central role food plays in all of our lives.  We build relationships while working to ensure that 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.

Join us next Wednesday from 4-5:30pm and every month on the 3rd Wednesday at 12301 Old Columbia Pike, Suite 200, Silver Spring MD 20904!  Bring a co-worker or friend with you!

Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

With Thanksgiving falling late in November, it feels to me like we celebrated one holiday and then, with the quick turn of the calendar page, we are in a whole new season already! I hope you had a chance to pause and savor an abundant and tasty Thanksgiving. As a Manna Food Center supporter, you can be assured that thousands of your neighbors were grateful for the services Manna provides. One woman left our marketplace Thanksgiving Eve saying to me, “Thank you, thank you, thank you…you just don’t know what this means. You just don’t know.” I want YOU to know that because of your generosity, Manna Food Center was able to offer good food in welcoming spaces to everyone who turned to us—1,158 people Thanksgiving week alone!
Last Tuesday was another celebration — Giving Tuesday. We celebrated giving back to the community and many of you showed their generosity with financial donations to Manna Food Center. Your support helps us replenish our shelves and fill our fridges with food. Your donations also make it possible for us to educate neighbors on how to prepare healthy holiday meals (Link to Cynthia’s blog post) and open our spaces to groups sharing skills such as GED tutoring, breast-feeding tips for new moms, and English language learning for adults.
The Giving Tuesday holiday also means the clock is ticking for end-of-year contributions. Depending on your age, your tax status, and other circumstances, there may be financial incentives to gifting required-minimum distributions or other contributions to Manna Food Center. Some individuals and families designate donations from Donor Advised Funds at the end of the year. (Link to Manna page as appropriate). Last month we shared tips from Rebecca Rothey, Vice President of Development and Senior Philanthropic Advisor at the Greater Washington Community Foundation. If you didn’t have a chance to act with those tips in mind, now is the time to do so!
However you chose to give, on behalf of the Manna Board, staff, and volunteers I want to thank you for giving us so much. As we gear up to end the year strong, I am so aware we could not serve without you. Thank you for being part of our team as we create together a community where there is Food for All.

Spend a sweet afternoon with Montgomery Parks!

Join us for Afternoon S’mores at your local Urban Park. Come with your family, friends or come alone. We will have the fire, graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows ready for you. It is free!

We are accepting donations for those in need so please feel free to bring nonperishable and/or canned food. Drop off your donation at the park and stay for some delicious S’mores!

Saturday, February 22nd
12-2 pm
Warner Circle Park
10231 Carroll Place
Kensington, MD 20895

Try this 10 Minute Burrito Bowl

4 teaspoons coconut oil

2 cups chopped baby spinach

2 cups cooked brown rice

2 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 avocado, chopped

1 cup chopped tomatoes

Chopped peppers (optional)

Chopped avocado (optional)

Shredded lettuce (optional)

Sour Cream (optional)

Salsa (optional)

Onions (optional)

Meat (optional)

Cheese (optional)


  1. Heat a large pan medium-high heat. Add coconut oil to the pan, and melt. Add spinach and sauté until wilted.
  2. Add rice, beans, sea salt, garlic powder, and cumin. Cook until all ingredients are heated through. Remove from heat.
  3. Top w/ optional toppings and serve!


Tips- Shopping on a Budget


5 Healthier Foods Under $2

  1. Brown Rice
  2. Frozen Vegetables
  3. Canned Tuna
  4. Canned/Jarred Marinara Sauce
  5. Canned Refried Beans


Bank of America Announces 2019 Neighborhood Builders® Grants to Manna Food Center and National Housing Trust

Each non-profit to receive $200,000 grant
Bank of America has supported 32 Neighborhood Builders with $6.4 million in grants in Greater Washington DC since 2004

Manna Board Members and Staff at Awards Reception

Washington, D.C. – Due to their demonstrated commitment to improving economic mobility in the communities they serve, a pair of Greater Washington non-profit organizations — Manna Food Center of Montgomery County, Md. and National Housing Trust (NHT) of Washington, D.C. — have been named Bank of America’s 2019 Neighborhood Builders®. Each organization will receive a $200,000 grant as part of the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders program.

In addition to monetary grants, each non-profit also will receive leadership training for a designated executive and emerging leader, and the opportunity to access capital for further expansion of their social impact.

Manna Food Center provides food to more than 34,000 individuals every year, and helps distribute rescued food to soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters. Serving Montgomery County residents since 1983, Manna’s mission includes supplying healthy food choices and providing education on proper nutrition. Manna Food Center offers mobile and pop-up kitchen services with the organization’s fully equipped retro-fitted school bus they lovingly call “Manny.”

“We are delighted to receive this important Neighborhood Builders grant from Bank of America, and we look forward to putting it to great use to achieve Food for All in Montgomery County by reaching 10,000 more neighbors,” said Manna Food Center CEO Jackie DeCarlo.

The National Housing Trust preserves, improves and maintains affordable housing so that low-income families can live in quality neighborhoods with access to opportunity. Through public policy advocacy, real estate development, lending and energy solutions, NHT has preserved more than 36,000 affordable homes in all 50 states and currently owns 35 affordable-housing properties nationwide, including 10 in the District, two in Arlington, Va., and one in Vienna, Va.

“This Neighborhood Builders award enables NHT to generate even more of a positive impact in affordable housing throughout the National Capital area. Headquartered in D.C. and surrounded by the largest concentration of communities in our portfolio, we’re pleased to put this capital from Bank of America toward the best possible use: improving housing options for families right here in the District,” said Priya Jayachandran, president of National Housing Trust.

“Bank of America is helping drive economic mobility in the D/M/V and one of the ways we’re doing that is through the partnership with our Neighborhood Builders,” said Larry Di Rita, Market President for Greater Washington D.C., Bank of America. “We’re proud to associate with Manna and NHT, and help them continue the important work they are doing.”

Bank of America’s presence in the Greater Washington DC market extends back more than 200 years. The Neighborhood Builders program is in its 16th year, and through it, Bank of America has partnered with 32 Washington, D.C., area nonprofits and has provided $6.4 million in grants since 2004.

Bank of America
Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 66 million consumer and small business clients with approximately 4,300 retail financial centers, including approximately 2,400 lending centers, 2,600 financial centers with a Consumer Investment Financial Solutions Advisor and 1,700 business centers; approximately 16,600 ATMs; and award-winning digital banking with nearly 38 million active users, including approximately 29 million mobile users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations across the United States, its territories and approximately 35 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

For more Bank of America news, including dividend announcements and other important information, visit the Bank of America newsroom. Click here to register for news email alerts.



Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

This summer Manna orchestrated a temporary re-location so that our warehouse could be transformed into a distribution hub.  With the help of incredibly committed volunteers, faithful and generous donors, and a rock-star team of dedicated employees, Manna made it back to our home at 9311 Gaither Rd last month.  But that’s not all, this summer we also created a Manna Marketplace and launched services at our new Center at the corner of Tech Rd and Rt 29 in Silver Spring.

These incredible milestones are critical to our vision of Food for All. They reflect our place-based strategy of serving in areas where poverty and food insecurity are too high.  They embody our core value of “respect” as we continue to design services that respond to the requests and interests of our community.  Plain and simple they indicate that we are serious about our delivering on our mission in the best way we know-how.

We are serious about our delivering on our mission.

We could not have made it through this support without support like yours, and we hope you’ll come out and celebrate with us this month.  Read on in this newsletter for details of our “One Weekend: Two Celebrations” plans for October 19 and 20th.  Please join us and see for yourself the transformation that your support has made possible!

It wasn’t easy…our warehouse team battled high temperatures, wildlife (ask ‘em about the snakes), and lack of equipment.  Other staff and volunteers, grateful for increased office space and amenities, had to cope with malfunctioning phone systems, changed commutes, and the demands of new processes to support our goal of reaching 10,000 new neighbors.  We’ve had some challenges, there is no doubt.

At marketplace, I recently spoke to “Marcus,” a participant recovering from a heart attack.  He spoke of his eagerness to heal and return to work.  He shared his gratitude to Manna as his family struggles to get by only on disability insurance. Before he left the Manna Marketplace he also gave me some tips on how to manage the grocery carts more efficiently!  Most importantly Marcus helped me realized that all the struggles, hassles, doubts, and challenges of this summer were worth it.  We are better able to serve Marcus and neighbors like him now and into the future.

A few tough months will soon be distant memories replaced by the joy of service and partnership.

Our FY2019 Annual Report is now available!

Have you ever asked yourself, “Where did the time go?” Time has definitely gone quickly for Manna Food Center but the year has brought many rewarding successes that we are proud to share in this annual report. During this past fiscal year, we addressed many new challenges presented to us by the changing environment in Montgomery County, Maryland and the country. Whether dealing with a Federal government shut-down or convening conversations on racial equity and social justice, our vision of a county where everyone lives in dignity and no one goes hungry remains steadfast. This year we reached 34,250 neighbors by distributing 3.1 million pounds of nutritious food while also educating students of all ages through Manny, our “kitchen on wheels.”

With the support of our Board of Directors, donors, volunteers, and local policymakers, we laid the groundwork of a “Food for All” Capital Campaign which will allow Manna to reach 10,000 new hungry children, seniors and working poor by the end of 2020. This bold approach is focused on offering healthy, tasty, culturally appropriate food to high-poverty neighborhoods. We are also committed to strengthening those communities in partnership with organizations that share our values.

Our “Food for All” campaign reflects our strategic priorities and already we have much progress to be proud of and celebrate this year. We opened a new choice pantry distribution site at Gaithersburg Middle School, increased food rescue work in the community kitchen we share in Silver Spring, and opened our second school-based pantry where several moms who receive food also volunteer.

Our work grows out of a commitment to frugality, prosperity, and excellence. As a leader in the local not-for-profit community, Manna upholds high standards of accountability and transparency. This year we were recognized by the Catalogue of Philanthropy, Guide Star, and Charity Navigator with superior ratings.

We are grateful for the time and commitment of our dedicated staff, supportive volunteers,
and generous donors. As you read this annual report, we hope the review of successes will energize you for the future. We look forward to seeing you soon as we launch the public phase of “Food for All” with a series of activities designed to inspire your deeper investment.

There is still much work left to be done to achieve “Food for All,” and your continued support will make it all possible.

Ending hunger: It’s What we do!

Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

Dear Friends of Manna,

The start of a school year brings a sense of excitement – even if you aren’t a parent, student, or teacher. Something about the academic year remains with those of us who have had the privilege of a formal education; the sense of possibility is keen once classes begin. Here at Manna Food Center, the anticipation is even greater this fall.

Jackie signals we’ve got two celebrations coming up as she discusses final details for the marketplace with our construction contractor, Mike, from Therrien Waddell.

After years of planning and months of actual transition, we are settling into our new spaces. Our market and learning space in Silver Spring is opening its doors soon, and our warehouse is almost completely renovated. We have a vision of a Montgomery County where all people at all times have access to good food in welcoming spaces. Our recent renovations and relocations will better make that possible.

In our September newsletter, you’ll read about some of the celebrations we are having to welcome you into those spaces. I hope you will attend so I can thank you personally for helping us come this far!


Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

U.S. Rep. David Trone and Odessa

I’m having a bit of writer’s block: There is SOOO much happening in the world of Manna that it is hard to know what to share. Perhaps I should just offer up a “day in the life” to give you a taste of how we are fighting hunger and feeding hope this season.

A Day in the Life of Manna
One Tuesday this month I started the day at the community kitchen of Silver Spring Methodist Church, where we hosted WAMU radio, alongside partners KindWorks and MCCH, to share how the Community Food Rescue program helps feed neighbors and reduce the environmental impact of food waste. Then I went to Montgomery Village, where Rep. David Trone was a making a stop on his summer food tour. By gathering representatives from MCPS, the Department of Recreation, and the not-for-profit community, Manna helped the Congressman understand strategies for increasing access to healthy meals in the critical summer months.

Jackie helps a warehouse volunteer cool down.

Back at the warehouse, Manna’s logistics team was settling into our temporary warehouse at 8341 Beechcraft Ave in Gaithersburg (where food donations are accepted until our warehouse is renovated). Operating with less space and without any shelving or air-condition, our amazing team has exceeded my expectations of dedication and flexibility. Alongside stalwart volunteers, this particular Tuesday our staff got Manny on the road for a class at a Montgomery Housing Partnership location and conducted our food distribution satellite at Clifton Park Baptist Church.

Meanwhile, the office staff was in the final countdown of “purging and packing” as we relocated our headquarters to 12301 OLD Columbia Pike in Silver Spring. We are 50% of the way to opening a center featuring a marketplace to choose free food, alongside collaboration and classroom space. Save the date for an Open House: October 19!

Clearly, it has been an unusual and exciting summer for all of us dedicated to eliminating hunger. We could not make the progress we are, without supporters like you: donating food and funds, volunteering your time, even dropping off baked goods to nourish my teammates with surprise treats! This summer has been a group effort, and I am humbled by the response each and every day.



Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

When I’m out and about in the community this summer, people regularly ask, “How is the move going?” On my best days, I note that there are the usual delays and budget overruns, but I’m so excited about all that is being created—a revamped distribution hub and a new food center in Silver Spring. On those not-so-centered days, I grit my teeth and say, “Well, it’s actually four moves.”

Jamal Ray, Warehouse Manager, moves equipment onto a flatbed truck

Yes, this summer Manna Food Center is moving FOUR TIMES. We’ve already accomplished a temporary shift from 9311 Gaither to 8341 Beechcraft Ave. We’ll be relocated there until early September, while our warehouse is renovated.

One down three to go!

This Friday, beginning at noon our offices will close, our administrative, fundraising, programs, and services will make move #2 to a new home at 12301 Old Columbia Pike. Later this summer, move #3 is also at the 12301 building. We’ll offer a market for shopping, a classroom for learning, and a conference and “touch down” space for collaborating.

As fall approaches in our fourth and final move, our logistics team will return to 9311 Gaither Rd. better able to receive, store, and share millions of pounds of food. When it is all said and done, Manna will have accomplished much more than a move. We will have transformed our organization into a place where the community comes together through the power of food to be nourished, make connections, and ensure there is Food for All.

While all this change is exciting, some of the stress comes from saying goodbye. Our team—including our volunteers—will be functioning out of new locations in new ways. This means that Miss Blanche Hall, our warehouse clerk, won’t be greeting participants with her distinctive warm welcome. Some long-time volunteers have decided that now is the time to put down their boxes and phones. Although we understand the decisions, we are sad that Manna’s new ways and spaces don’t meet everyone’s service needs ( Secretly, we hope to tempt them back with cool new volunteer opportunities such as serving as shopping assistants on nights and weekends ).

Part of our moves this summer is a big leap of faith —that updating our equipment, evolving our services, and getting closer to those who need us will result in more food security, better health, and strong communities. Thank you for getting us to this place in our history and for coming along for the journey!


Jackie DeCarlo

Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

It’s going to be quite a summer for Manna Food Center! Last month I announced to you key milestones as Manna continues on a journey we refer to as “More than a Move.” Yes, we will be moving to temporary space during renovations of our 9311 Gaither Rd warehouse after the July 4th weekend. Yes, we will be moving staff to 12301 Old Columbia Pike at the corner of Tech Rd and Old Columbia Pike starting mid-July. But all this activity is more than just packing boxes and shifting locations. It is the culmination of a “place-based strategy” to improve, innovate, and invigorate our efforts to eliminate hunger.

Warehouse volunteers prepare racks of vegetables for an upcoming choice pantry.

In the midst of this transformation, Manna is making sure our services continue. We often say “hunger doesn’t take a break” and it certainly doesn’t during a move! Hunger has different dimensions in the summer. With students out of school and away from breakfast and lunch programs, families can feel the strain of providing more meals. Costs for camps and other activities pinch parents’ budgets. Even modest travel costs for three day weekends can chip away at disposable income. Through our Food for Families programs, at sites from Langley Park to Germantown, Manna is able to offer tasty, nutritious food to all who turn to us. Manny, our mobile kitchen and pop-up pantry, will be hitting the road double time to reach and teach.

Our motto this summer is “Be steady with the vision, be flexible with the details.” That’s because two construction projects happening while we serve 3,000 families a month is bound to be filled with headaches and hardships. However, if we all remember why we are in this process—to provide Food for All—we can keep the faith.

With your donations—of food, funds, and friendship—you make our work possible. Thank you for that generosity and for being with us on this journey. I continue to welcome your input or questions or suggestions.



Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

Cynthia, Manna’s Community Food Education Manager, shared at a recent staff meeting how everyone needs a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, fats, and proteins to live a healthy life. Similar to the building blocks of health, Manna’s donors, supporters, and volunteers are essential to creating a foundation upon which Manna’s mission is possible. With your time, talent, and treasure, we touched the lives of 31,710 neighbors in need last year. To continue our progress, we’ve included volunteers, board members, and community members in our planning process to reach 10,000 more people in the years ahead.

Jackie (center) chats with volunteers about moving plans during a volunteer luncheon.

Earlier this month I hosted “Q&A” sessions for volunteers to discuss our progress and short and long-term plans. It was inspiring to hear questions, suggestions, and concerns from those of you who give your time regularly to Manna.  I’m honored by the commitment to Manna that supporters like you have

I’m thrilled to report that construction on our new office space and marketplace in East County began last month. This space will offer a range of foods in our choice market and space for collaboration and learning. At the end of April, we opened a distribution site at Gaithersburg Middle School to support families. In early July our warehouse will close for renovations, and we’ll relocate our food operations for two months. By the end of July, we’ll also have the East County center open at 12301 Old Columbia Pike. You can check out a list of important milestones here. Clearly, summer will be anything but dull, but I assure you we have every intention to continue our services without interruption.

We know that the people of Montgomery County have a deep desire to be of service, and we are committed to offering you a chance to help end hunger. In fact, the Manna Board and staff are dedicated to making this “More than a Move.”  There are still many details around our move to be determined.  Rest assured, we will continue to offer enriching volunteer opportunities around the County.

We are committed to updating our facilities and evolving our services to reach more neighbors in need. Thank you in advance for your flexibility and support. As always, feel free to drop me a line at jackie@mannafood.org.



Our Distribution Locations are Changing!
Nuestros Lugares de Distribución están Cambiando!

If you would like to talk with our team to consider other distribution dates, times and locations, please call (301) 424-1130.  

Si deseahablar con nosotros para considerarotrasfechas de distribución, horarios y ubicaciones, llame al (301) 424-1130. 

Starting Tuesday, April 23, 2019 Manna will be opening a new distribution site at Gaithersburg Middle School. This site will replace our daily distribution at Manna’s Gaithersburg warehouse. 

Gaithersburg Middle School
2 Teachers Way, Room 200
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

A partir del martes 23 de abril de 2019, Manna abrirá un nuevo sitio de distribución, que pronto reemplazará el lugar de nuestra distribución en la bodega principal ubicada en 9311 Gaither Rd. Gaithersburg.

Nuevo Centro
Gaithersburg Middle School
2 Teachers Way
Gaithersburg, MD 20877 – Sala 200

Food distribution at the Gaithersburg warehouse will continue daily until May 24, 2019. From April 23 to May 24, you will have the option to schedule a pick-up at either Manna’s Warehouse or Gaithersburg Middle School. 

After May 24, food will no longer be distributed from Manna’s Warehouse on Gaither Rd. 

La distribución de alimentos en la bodega principal de Gaithersburg continuará todos los días hasta el 24 de mayo de 2019. Desde el 23 de abril hasta el 24 de mayo, tendrá la opción de programar su recojo en la bodega de Manna o en la nueva ubicación que es Gaithersburg Middle School.

Después del 24 de mayo, los alimentos no serán distribuidos en la bodega de Manna en 9311 Gaither Rd. Gaithersburg.

Happy National Nutrition Month! This special month is celebrated, as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic states, to “increase the public’s awareness of the importance of good nutrition”. This includes spreading the message of how much one’s diet may impact their health and well being.

In honor of this month, it is important to address the misconception that healthy eating is bland and boring. There are simple cooking tips and tricks that can transform what one may believe to be a tasteless food, into a new favorite! This can be achieved simply by a combination of spices, sauces, marinades or even cooking methods.

Herbs and spices have the opportunity to create different flavors representing different cuisines, ranging from a Mexican to Italian flare. Some fresh herbs may be more expensive than others, try dried versions, which are just as flavorful. Just be sure to adjust the amount used in your cooking, as dry herbs tend to be more potent. If you’re a fan of spicy food then spice up your dishes with your favorite hot sauce, crushed red pepper, or, for an Asian twist, try sriracha. All of these tend to have a long shelf life so they should keep well without worry of spoiling.


Often, marinating is thought to be a time consuming process, time that most people don’t have when it comes to getting a meal on the table at the end of the day. In reality, marinating a protein for even just 30 minutes is sufficient enough to add great flavor and avoid any food safety concerns. A good guide to making your own marinade starts with oil, preferably with heart healthy fats such as olive oil; an acid, such as vinegar (your choice) or lemon juice; and lastly, seasonings or herbs. Some marinades also include a sweet component. Opt for more natural forms of sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup, which contain health benefits including antioxidants and minerals not found in table sugar. Typically the ratio for fat to acid in a marinade is 3:1. For example, mix together three tablespoons of oil with the juice of one lime and add 2 teaspoons of chili powder and freshly chopped cilantro if desired! This would go great on chicken or fish.

With the right seasonings, healthy food no longer needs to be boring! Turn a bland chicken breast into a yummy Mexican inspired meal with some chili powder, cumin, and garlic salt. Serve over brown rice and your favorite veggies. Squeeze lemon juice over a piece of fish with garlic salt and your favorite herbs. Don’t be afraid to be creative in the kitchen and find your favorite combinations!

Samantha is a dietetic intern in the UMD College Park program. She is passionate about finding ways to combat food insecurity while working to reduce food waste through systematic changes. Samantha loves traveling and getting the chance to try local cuisines while on her adventures!

Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

The promise of spring is around us. We’ve all reset our clocks, and many of us have started making our plans for school breaks and important religious holidays. Manna is gearing up for many hunger-fighting activities in a spirit of renewal: Our bus, “Manny,” is out from hibernation, sporting new sponsorship logos and a calendar full of Pop-up Pantry activities and learning opportunities. Another new school-based pantry is offering free shopping opportunities. We are putting the final touches on the program and silent auction for Heroes Against Hunger on March 28. I hope to see you there as we salute individuals and institutions who have helped make our 35 years of fighting hunger possible.

CEO Jackie DeCarlo and Board Chair Mitchell Glassman (right) with State Senator Cheryl Kagan and Delegate Julie Palakovich Carr (center) and other local organizations advocating for state funding.

That’s all the usual type of spring activity, but more is happening behind the scenes. Late last year I signed a lease on new program and office space in Silver Spring. Our warehouse will be staying in Gaithersburg as the distribution hub reaching more than 31,000 people throughout the County at almost two dozen distribution sites. But in order to be closer to neighborhoods like Aspen Hill, Fairland, White Oak, and Wheaton, we need a Center for sharing food and building skills. This summer we’ll be opening a new space, and I can’t wait to give supporters like you a tour! Full disclosure: we’ll also be renovating the warehouse this summer, but I haven’t ironed out all those details — rest assured we will continue services no matter what. Please let me know if you have any questions about our expansion plans.

On the home front, I’m going to be constructing my first ever raised-bed garden. I like to dabble in the yard and was recently motivated by a wellness lesson during a Manna staff meeting. Heart disease runs in my family so fresh veggies can help me avoid common diet-related pitfalls. At home and at work, this is clearly a season of building and growing and caring. I wish the same for you and hope to see you out in the community soon to enjoy the season together.

Cholesterol: Clearing Up the Confusion

written by: Laura Jeske

Are eggs bad for you? When it comes to nutrition and heart health, this is a question that seems to be asked constantly. Eggs are naturally high in dietary cholesterol, a fatty substance that has long been thought to increase levels of cholesterol in your blood. High blood cholesterol is a major factor in determining risk of heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, contributing to approximately 25% of deaths annually. Heart disease is actually an umbrella term that encompasses a range of diseases, including atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries), heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), stroke, and heart valve problems.

Cholesterol was first associated with heart disease in the early 1900s, but the lipid hypothesis – the idea that there is a direct link between cholesterol levels and heart disease risk – didn’t catch on immediately. It wasn’t until the 1950s that research indicated a correlation did exist between the two, and physicians began recommending people cut back on high cholesterol foods, like eggs. Since then, the associations between heart disease, cholesterol, and diet have been studied extensively. New research is moving away from the idea that cholesterol in food has much impact on blood cholesterol, but current guidelines continue to recommend maintaining low blood cholesterol levels in order to reduce the risk of heart disease.

There are two main types of cholesterol: LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, circulates in your blood and can clog your arteries; HDL, the “good” cholesterol, removes harmful cholesterol from your bloodstream. While it makes logical sense that eating cholesterol in food will increase cholesterol in your blood, it’s not quite that simple. Several dietary factors influence blood cholesterol levels. There isn’t a lot of good evidence that dietary cholesterol has a significant impact on blood cholesterol for most people. In fact, the most recent federal dietary guidelines removed previous limits on dietary cholesterol, stating it is no longer a nutrient of concern. Instead, the focus is on three other factors:


Fat: Limiting fat is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of a heart-healthy diet. However, not all fat is detrimental. Fat comes in three primary forms: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fat. When it comes to cholesterol and heart health, evidence shows that trans fat and saturated fat increase harmful LDL cholesterol and that trans fats in particular also decrease beneficial HDL cholesterol. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are considered heart-healthy and increase HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol.


Sugar: The connection between sugar and cholesterol is a relatively recent discovery. Added sugars in the diet have been shown to decrease HDL cholesterol, and may increase LDL cholesterol. Sugar also increases levels of blood triglycerides, fats that, along with LDL cholesterol, are a risk factor for heart disease.


Fiber: Dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, effectively lowers LDL and total cholesterol levels by binding cholesterol and inhibiting its absorption into the bloodstream.

What to Eat for Healthy Cholesterol Levels?

Keeping in mind that diet is not the only factor affecting cholesterol levels certain foods do have an impact so diet is an important consideration.


Add these high-fiber foods into your diet:

Replace foods high in trans and saturated fats with heart-healthy unsaturated fats

Limit foods high in added sugar

So, what about eggs?

Though eggs do contain a small amount of saturated fat, they actually contain more unsaturated fat, plus a host of other beneficial nutrients. Feel free to include eggs in your heart-healthy diet.

Editor’s Note: Laura is a dietetic intern from Virginia Tech (go Hokies!). She spent the past two weeks working with the programs team at Manna Food Center learning about food insecurity and community nutrition education. She loves lentils and particularly enjoyed teaching Manna staff all about healthy protein and fat.

Notes from the CEO – Jackie DeCarlo

Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation volunteers with Jackie DeCarlo

Traditionally our February e-newsletter is a time to shine a light on the service that happened in honor of Dr. King’s birthday the previous month. This year is no exception. Stalwart volunteers-from high school students to Members of Congress-braved bitterly cold weather while helping us collect 28,542 pounds of food from 20 Giant Food stores. On MLK Day itself, with the support of our friends at Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, we participated in the County’s Day of Service and prepared 768 boxes of food boxes for neighbors with special health concerns. I want to send a big THANK YOU to all those who volunteered, shopped, or packed boxes.

Another January story was, of course, how Manna Food Center responded to the longest running Federal government shutdown in U.S. history. By waiving the income eligibility requirements for the families of Federal workers, contractors, and others negatively impacted by the shutdown, we were able to share good food in welcoming spaces to 748 neighbors. We did this, while maintaining our usual Food for Families and Smart Sack programs and activating the Community Food Rescue volunteer network. Manna couldn’t have responded as consistently and abundantly as we did without generous donations of food and funds.  Even though the shutdown is over, our waiver is still in effect as families recover.

The shutdown is a teachable moment for all of us. Last month, Forbes reported that 78% of U.S. workers are living paycheck to paycheck. Missing a paycheck can mean not making the rent, defaulting on a car loan, or ruining credit by skipping a utility payment. Manna helps prevent financial emergencies by offering Montgomery County families groceries at no-cost. We are confident that we will rise to any challenge ahead. As advocates as well as service providers, we are now redoubling our efforts to help the community understand that even when the government is working as it should, a health crisis, marital difficulties, or other stressors can put a household into a tail-spin.

There are many ways that you can be involved in helping our community rebound from the shutdown and prepare for what’s next. Attend our Advocacy Task Force on February 19, visit our Breaking Bread potluck on February 20, or donate online. The Montgomery County community responded with generosity during the shutdown, and Manna Food Center will keep sharing food, building skills, and creating connections day in and day out, with your help.



MLK Weekend Food Drive Brings in 28,000 Pounds of Food

Over 200 volunteers and 20 elected officials collected food at 20 Giant Food stores.

(Gaithersburg, Maryland) – Manna Food Center (Manna) collected a total of 28,542 pounds of food during the MLK Service Weekend Food Drive held on January 19th and 20th at participating Giant Food stores in Montgomery County. Food donations increased by 87% from the previous year.

“We witnessed the strength and compassion of our community during MLK Service Weekend,” said Jackie DeCarlo, chief executive officer for Manna Food Center. “Many were motivated to help because of the government shutdown, including our long-term partner Giant Food. The shutdown opened the public’s eyes to ongoing issues around food insecurity here in Montgomery County.”

The 14 tons of food will help stock Manna’s shelves for Montgomery County neighbors in need. More than 63,000 residents live with uncertainty around food for themselves and their family. Manna waived income requirements to assist residents impacted from the shutdown. The waiver remains in effect until further notice. Food will be distributed to participants through existing distribution sites.

Over 200 Manna volunteers and 20 elected officials collected food items from shoppers throughout the weekend of service. The top five Giant Food stores were Westfield Wheaton (3114 lbs.), Blair Park (2193 lbs.), Kentlands (2052 lbs.), Burtonsville (1998 lbs.), and Traville Village Center (1758 lbs.).

Participating elected officials included:

  • U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen
  • U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin
  • State Senators Cheryl Kagan and Jeff Waldstreicher
Maryland House of Delegates
  • Gabe Acevero
  • Lorig Charkoudian
  • Charlotte Crutchfield
  • Kathleen Dumais
  • Lesley Lopez
  • David Moon
  • Lily Qi
  • Jared Solomon
  • Jheanelle Wilkins
Montgomery County Council
  • Gabe Albornoz
  • Evan Glass
  • Will Jawando
  • Hans Riemer
Gaithersburg City Council
  • Mayor Jud Ashman
  • Laurie-Anne Sayles
  • Ryan Spiegel

Photos available at http://bit.ly/MannaMLKFoodDrivePhotos.

(Photo Credit: Manna Food Center)

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.

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.”

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:

Bon appetit!

Black Bean Mango Salsa

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

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!

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!

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.





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.

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.


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

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.





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.

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:

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.


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.

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.

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:


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


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!


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.

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

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!





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.


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

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


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?

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




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.




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.

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:

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.

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

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:

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.



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!

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.



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:

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.


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!




If you missed the first culinary battle, the competitors (and generous partners) will be at it again on Sunday, September 27 making delicious, spontaneous creations out of local foods supplied by our favorite Clarksburg Farm vendors: Scenic View Orchards, Valencia’s Produce, and Abundant Grace Farm.  Come watch the fun, taste the food, and vote for the winner!



This farmers market week, be sure to support the markets that support Manna Food Center: Central Farm Markets, Olney Farm and Artisan Market, City of Rockville Market, and Clarksburg Farmers Market.  Last month, these markets and the their generous vendors combined to provide over 20,000 pounds of fresh, regional produce to Montgomery County families served by Manna.

by Lindsey Seegers




Manna is the coordinator of Community Food Rescue, a network designed to feed more and waste less, in Montgomery County.  Read about the latest round of mini-grants awarded to build the capacity of local partners to fill bellies, not landfills.

See more here: http://communityfoodrescue.org/blog/

Join us on November 3rd for the biggest food drive you’ve ever seen!

In honor of Farmers Market week we are remembering the epic battle between Manna’s Nutrition Education team and Whole Foods Market’s Chef Charlie at the Clarksburg Farmers Market’s Inaugural “Chopped” Challenge.


If you missed the first culinary battle, the competitors (and generous partners) will be at it again on Sunday, September 27 making delicious, spontaneous creations out of local foods supplied by our favorite Clarksburg Farm vendors: Scenic View Orchards, Valencia’s Produce, and Abundant Grace Farm.  Come watch the fun, taste the food, and vote for the winner!



This farmers market week, be sure to support the markets that support Manna Food Center: Central Farm Markets, Olney Farm and Artisan Market, City of Rockville Market, and Clarksburg Farmers Market.  Last month, these markets and the their generous vendors combined to provide over 20,000 pounds of fresh, regional produce to Montgomery County families served by Manna.