The Manna Food Project has been feeding the hungry throughout the North since 1987, including the 2,000-plus area children who benefit from their Food 4 Kids program.

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A child comes home from school and wanders into the kitchen, pops open the refrigerator door. The shelves are empty save for a few condiments and the last of a carton of milk. The bad news? It’s Friday, and the next hot meal on the horizon is Monday’s school lunch. She feels more than just hungry.

Hunger and child development research shows that kids who live with food insecurity—like the one-in-five in Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties—experience delayed development, risk of chronic illnesses like asthma and anemia, and behavioral problems like hyperactivity, anxiety and aggression.

Thousands of our neighbors struggle every day to get by—the Manna Food Project helps provide healthy food for these families. Each week, volunteers fill and distribute backpacks tucked full of dried fruit, cereal, cheese, oatmeal and other nutritious food to help tide kids over through the weekend.

Other programs support healthy families, such as the food bank and food pantry, and Manna’s Food Rescue program. Manna trucks are on the road every day collecting food donations from local grocery stores and retailers—a total of more than 500,000 pounds each year—to stock community kitchens and area food banks with food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

But they don’t just stop at providing food—it’s about helping shape lifelong healthy eating habits that transform the well-being of communities. Produce for People secures fresh, locally grown produce for food pantries, and Manna’s nutrition education and cooking classes teach clients how to prepare delicious and nutritious meals. Each client brings home a new crockpot or blender, a three-piece kitchen knife set, vegetable peeler, cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, colander, refrigerator thermometer, spatula and fresh ingredients to prepare several easy-to-make recipes. Said one recent student: “My mom never taught me how to cook. Now, I can pass down what I’ve learned to my daughter.”

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