Working together to load Manna Food Project’s current refrigerated truck are (from left), executive director Carrie Klinglesmith, associate director Gabrielle Billion, food rescue manager Bob MacKenzie, warehouse associate Matthew McGuiness, and warehouse manager Eric Foster.

People Fund helps Manna keep its cool

Working together to load Manna Food Project’s current refrigerated truck are (from left), executive director Carrie Klinglesmith, associate director Gabrielle Billion, food rescue manager Bob MacKenzie, warehouse associate Matthew McGuiness, and warehouse manager Eric Foster.

With nearly a million pounds of food to collect and distribute in a three-county region each year, the staff and volunteers at Harbor Springs-based Manna Food Project certainly have their plate full.

That’s why the thought of a new, bigger refrigerated truck to help get all that food delivered to those in need more efficiently is so appetizing for the Manna team.

GLE members who participate in the People Fund program by agreeing to have their monthly utility bill rounded up to the next whole dollar are helping make that dream come true for the Manna Food Project team.

A 2021 People Fund grant provided a $5,000 slice of the $80,000 pie needed to cover the cost of the new truck. The grant was just one of 136 grants totaling more than $389,000 the People Fund awarded in 2021. Since its inception in 1999, the People Fund has awarded more than $4 million in grants to local community organizations.

Founded in 1987, the Manna Food Project is a non-profit organization that helps feed the hungry in Emmet, Charlevoix, and Antrim counties. The organization, which is a member of the Feeding America Food Bank Network, operates a food bank (distribution center), a food rescue program, a weekly food pantry, and the “Food 4 Kids” backpack program.

Manna Food Project Executive Director Carrie Klingelsmith said the People Fund grant was combined with many other grants the organization received to completely cover the cost of the new truck.

Klinglesmith said the new truck will replace a smaller capacity 2012 model truck the organization has been using since 2017.

“It will help us be more efficient with our deliveries and pickups. We’ll be able to cut down on the amount of vehicles we need and trips we need to make. It will definitely be a time-saver and our efficiency will be a lot better with this bigger truck,” Klinglesmith said.

She explained that the refrigerated truck is a key component in Manna’s food rescue program. Through partnerships with area grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers, Manna is able to accept donations of food items that the business can’t sell anymore, but that are still safe to eat. Klinglesmith said many of those items are frozen or require refrigeration. She said the food rescue program takes food that would otherwise end up in a landfill to significantly enhance Manna’s efforts to provide food for families in need.

But Manna is much more than just a direct-to-client food pantry. It also serves as a food supply hub providing food for 30 local food pantries in Emmet, Charlevoix, and Antrim counties. That means the refrigerated truck’s role is crucial not only in picking up food from area donors, but also in getting it safely delivered to local food pantries.

“We rescue the food and we try to turn around and distribute it as fast as we can so it doesn’t go bad,” Klinglesmith. “Having the bigger truck is going to be a lot more efficient for us.”

Klinglesmith said Manna Food Project is almost entirely funded through grants and donations – both large and small. Much like the People Fund, Manna’s efforts are the product of many people contributing to make a difference in their communities.

Unfortunately, the Manna team will have to wait a bit longer for their new truck to arrive. Although the money is in hand and the truck was ordered many months ago, it’s unclear exactly when the new truck will be delivered because of the same COVID-19-related supply and manufacturing delays that have been affecting many industries in recent months. In the meantime, the crew will continue to use the existing refrigerated truck.

Manna Food Project facts

  • The Manna Food Project has a staff of eight employees and more than 250 volunteers.
  • The organization serves 30 partner agencies in three counties.
  • The food rescue program collected and distributed more than 292,000 pounds of food in 2021
  • The “Food 4 Kids” program prepares and delivers more than 1,300 backpacks full of food to 30 area schools each week for children to have food in the evenings and on weekends.

“We are very thankful for the help of Great Lakes Energy and all the other people who help us, too. It’s so cool to be able to give back to the community and to serve our mission,” Klinglesmieth said.

To learn more about the Manna Food Project, including how to donate to the organization or volunteer to help in its efforts, visit mannafoodproject.org/.

When GLE members agree to have their bills rounded up to the next whole dollar through the People Fund, they can count helping those who help others among the many ways their dollars are making a difference.

To learn more about the People Fund including how to enroll, how to apply for a grant, and lists of the most recent grant recipients, visit gtlakes.com/people-fund/.

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