Why Did Manna Give Away Chocolate last Weekend?
More and more, Manna Food Center is known not just as the group that gives out food from the back of our ever-present trucks. We are also an organization committed to supporting healthy lifestyles for all members of our community. Manna offers Nutrition Education in many forms throughout Montgomery County, including this blog. Last weekend, it may have seemed out of sync for our staff to offer fair trade chocolate to clients signing in for food–but there’s a good reason.
On the second Saturday of each month, Manna opens its doors to clients. Some of our clients struggle with transportation issues and juggle busy work schedules, so this provides the community a weekend option to receive the food we share. This past Saturday, our distribution happened to fall on World Fair Trade Day, a global celebration of the values of the fair trade movement. If you’ve ever shopped at the Ten Thousand Villages in Rockville or sipped some of the blends of Bethesda’s Honest Tea Company, you’ve enjoyed Fair Trade. But Fair Trade is not just about tasty or trendy products. It is an effort to confront poverty by building partnerships based on the core values of dialogue, transparency, and respect. Manna’s staff believes that we won’t end hunger just by filling people’s pantries with wholesome food. We know that we also have to confront why people are hungry in the first place. The causes and costs of poverty are complex, but guided by principles and practices of economic justice, Manna’s vision is to be the Center of ending hunger in Montgomery County.
So how does this all relate to chocolate? Manna relies on the food donations from the business community, faith-based groups, and individuals to create our Manna boxes. The chocolate we distributed this past Saturday was a donation from a leading fair trader, Equal Exchange. By handing out the chocolate, along with World Fair Trade stickers, Manna did our part to build awareness of Fair Trade principles and the importance of businesses giving back to their communities. It was a small gesture, but it was a start. In this small gesture is the beginning of a vital conversation with our clients and colleagues. We hope this conversation will generate new ideas for fighting long-term problems like hunger and food insecurity for our community and beyond.
You can help us get started. Comment with your ideas for ending hunger in our community. To stay in touch, check out our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, @MannaFoodCenter. If you want to join in our work, visit our website for opportunities to give food, funds or free time. To reach me directly, write Jackie@mannafood.org
Jackie DeCarlo is the Executive Director of Manna Food Center and author of Fair Trade: A Beginner’s Guide.