1,000 meals last month by Manna

Many Sweet Home residents enjoy their evening meal in dining room of the Methodist Church, 845 Sixth Avenue.

The free community meal is known by the biblical name “Manna” and has been feeding the hungry of Sweet Home for more than a decade. The “Manna” meal is served Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 5 to 6 p.m.

Diners are not required to demonstrate a specified level of need. Any person is welcome at “Manna.”

The meal program is run entirely by volunteers. More than 50 volunteers donate 400-500 hours each month by receiving deliveries, preparing food, serving food, and cleaning up. Over 1,000 meals were served last month to more than 180 individuals.

“Manna” is a program of Sweet Home Emergency Ministries {SHEM}. Sweet Home United Methodist Church’s mission is to feed the “physical, social and spiritual hungers of all people.” Methodist volunteers coordinate and train crews from various Sweet Home churches.

This past week the kitchen crew included Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, Mormons, Cornerstone worshippers and others who have no church affiliation.

“Manna” volunteers and diners are quick to point out that the meal is not a “soup kitchen” in the traditional sense. Rather, Manna is a meal for those in the community who may have any of the hungers mentioned in the mission statement above. Conversation around the table is a significant source of personal support and friendship.

The free meal is made possible by the assistance of Linn-Benton Food Share, an affiliate of the Oregon Food Bank.

Linn-Benton Food Share makes bi-weekly deliveries from their various food sources. These include the “Fresh Alliance” program with produce from Linn-Benton area grocers, restaurants and prepared foods from OSU food service.

Our local Safeway donates excess baked goods. Thriftway grocery donates 1% of the amount of cash register receipts collected by “Manna” diners. Sweet Home School District has been donating excess food since it learned that it could legally donate to “Manna”. Local gleaners groups have also donated excess food. In addition, some Sweet Home area farmers who have provided food for “Manna,” including Fraga Farms with their prized goat cheese.

Sweet Home United Methodist invested over $40,000 to upgrade the kitchen to meet restaurant standards. Meyer Memorial Trust assisted with a grant to upgrade stoves and ovens. Sweet Home Community Foundation provided grants for table and chairs. Individuals have donated generously.

What can you do to support this program? An abundance of food comes from the various sources. What is a challenge for the host church is the increased cost of heat, water and power as the program has grown. Food storage demands five freezers and three refrigerators. Feeding 900-1100 meals a month also means a substantial outlay in paper goods, rubber gloves, and cleaning supplies.

Donations can be made to Sweet Home Emergency Ministries with a notation for “Manna”. Donations can also be made to Sweet Home United Methodist Church with a notation for “Manna”. You are invited come enjoy dinner and be a part of the “Manna” community.

Bob Hartsock