By Emma Castleberry
November is a food-centric month in the US: the seasonal produce of autumn is flourishing, the anticipation of Thanksgiving is in the air. But for many families, the anticipation of this feast is more stressful than exciting. “It’s hard to be in a situation where you are food insecure any time of year, but it is especially hard during the holidays,” says Kara Irani, marketing and communications director for MANNA FoodBank.
“We are seeing the highest need in our organization’s 40-year history right now and much of it is due to the increases we are all experiencing in food costs, but also housing costs and availability, a lack of affordable child care, increased medical expenses, and families’ incomes not keeping pace with these growing costs. We are also now seeing the pandemic-era resources going away, even though the need for food remains chronically high.”
Along with this increase in need, MANNA is facing supply chain challenges, increased food and transportation costs and a decrease in federal support, meaning donor and volunteer support are more important than ever for the organization. Through December 2, MANNA is hosting its annual Turkey Drive, an opportunity for individuals to donate virtually to provide holiday food for families in need. There will also be a Community Drive Thru Turkey Donation Drive at the Asheville Outlets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 4.
Another way to support MANNA FoodBank this month is by participating in the Jus’ Running Asheville Turkey Trot 5K and Gobble Wobble 1 Mile Fun Run on Thanksgiving Day. “The race gives everyone, especially families, a chance to come together on the holiday for some exercise and bonding with family members that they haven’t seen recently,” says Norman Blair, owner of Jus’ Running and race director for the Turkey Trot. “It also takes a little of the feasting guilt away starting the day with a little calorie burning.” The race begins in front of the Asheville YMCA downtown at 8:30 a.m. and a portion of proceeds go to support MANNA.
“These are important annual events for us every year, because having access to traditional holiday foods is helping to ensure everyone gets a chance to participate in the season’s celebrations,” says Irani. “Helping MANNA and our partners with turkeys and other holiday table fare is providing much-needed food, but also hope—and that is especially important for someone experiencing a crisis like food insecurity. We can come together as a community and show everyone that we are not alone, that there is a network of people working for, and caring for all of us in a moment of struggle.”