Growing Manna

The Manna Project, a program of Mason City Christian Church in cooperation with the Peoria Area Food Bank, is making strides in keeping families fed in the Mason City area. This program grew from humble beginnings.

Last year, the church initiated a “Blessed to be a Blessing” project, collecting local donations and supplying additional support to households visiting the Mason City Food Pantry. Brian and Marshawn Stevens worked on that project.

The Mason City couple found it rewarding to be able to help with a growing problem, however it quickly became obvious that the demand outweighed the resources. “There’s just so much need in this area–so many families coming in with requests–that we weren’t keeping up,” Marshawn says.

Under the direction of the church and with the help of volunteers, the Stevens’ kept looking. The next growth spurt came when they made contact with Pastor Chris McAffee of the Buffalo Christian Church. McAffee had made an arrangement with the Sara Lee Corporation, and was receiving regular shipments of bread to be given away. Some of that bread was routed to Mason City.

In September of last year the Stevens’ and their band of Samaritans became aware of a program being run by the Peoria Area Food Bank. That organization was supplying truckloads of food on a regular basis to rural areas in need.

The Manna Project was underway.

On the fourth Tuesday of each month, food is available at the fellowship hall of Mason City Christian Church from 5:30 until 7:30. Participants can expect to receive bread, bakery items, canned goods and dry goods. Often, donations to the Peoria Area Food Bank, or purchases made by the church, allow for fresh items such as eggs, meat, fruit and vegetables.

The generous donation of a large deep-freeze by the local 4H was a boon to the program, allowing for storage of frozen food at the church

“We see people from all over, averaging about 160-190 households any given month,” Marshawn says. I’ve noticed we get a lot of working class families. We don’t turn anyone away.”

The Stevens’ emphasize that volunteer and community support is essential to the success of this program. “If we didn’t have faithful volunteers, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Read the Mason City Banner Times for more local news.