Every Wednesday afternoon from June 8th to October 8th, The Garden Project of SW Co and Manna Soup Kitchen distributed free produce at the Manna Market. Over the course of 4 months, the Garden Project + Manna Soup Kitchen distributed 6,260 pounds of fresh produce and served over 1,000 community members. The Manna Market traveled to Roberta Shirley on a monthly basis to distribute produce to the families of Head Start.
Valuable partners like WIC and Cooking Matters helped to provide educational information on how to cook fresh, and seasonal produce. WIC provided weekly recipes and Cooking Matters provided a cooking demonstration for Manna Market customers. A case of "Good and Cheap" free cookbooks were distributed by TGP to Manna Market families.
At the Manna Market, TGP and partners advertised the new Double Bucks campaign for SNAP dollars at the Farmer's Market. At least 2 separate farmers mentioned that their SNAP dollars increased exponentially this year. The Manna Market also served as model for the farmer's market to help food insecure families feel comfortable in the market setting in order to create more Durango Farmer's Market customers.
The Manna Garden produced over 1,200 lbs of produce that was distributed at the Manna Market. The other 5,100 lbs of produce was donated by local farmers and gardeners. The donated produce was likely to head into the food waste stream but was instead distributed to food insecure families. This not only provides valuable nutrients for families but it also reduces our community's carbon footprint.
While the hard numbers easily demonstrate the success of the Manna Market, the anecdotal observations are even more impressive. Here are few of the summer's observed quotes.
"Mom, can we please get some kale?" a child coerces her mother to take some kale at the Manna Market.
"As a teenage vegetarian in a struggling family, this market helps me eat much healthier"
"We have been eating well this summer, thanks to you all"
"We got so much produce last week that we were able to freeze some for the winter"
"Our kids have been eating these apples in their lunch everyday at school"
"Thanks for being here for us every week, we all really appreciate the produce"
Every week, families were incredibly appreciative and thankful for the produce. The Wednesday night dinners served a record number of children in attendance at the Manna Soup Kitchen. The Manna Market also created a sense of community with children perusing the garden in wonder, Manna clients and community members interacting about food, and volunteers and clients making new friends. During the final week of the Manna Market, Manna clients came out to the booth to help us set up and sang a song in thanks to the TGP volunteers.
The Garden Project is looking forward to 2017's Manna Market. Thanks for making this year an amazing success!!!!