Manna began as a result of requests to various clergy in Bracebridge for “just a few groceries.” It was clear that there were families needing emergency food supplies. In August 1989 a meeting was called by Father Terry Bennett of St Thomas’ Anglican Church; those present became a steering committee.
The food bank immediately became a completely independent entity, with representatives from the whole community, to serve the whole community. It opened its doors in October, 1989, in Browning Hall.
The initial response was slow, but the list of clients soon began to grow with referrals from social agencies and Interval House. We also began to see a steady growth in the amount of food collected and cash donated from various churches, civic groups and organizations and individuals.
During the summer months we thought that the number of our clients would drop. Instead, the economy dropped. As the recession grew, so did our caseload. With clients coming from Gravenhurst, Huntsville and elsewhere, we no longer had to deal with skeptics who had told us there was no need for a food bank in Muskoka.
In 2010, the Manna Food Bank provided groceries to 2,067 families at least once. That’s 6,185 clients in total, of which more than a third are children.
Clients are interviewed by a food bank volunteer every time they visit (all records are confidential) and we are satisfied that those who come are genuinely in need. Many are without work; others are working but caught in a crunch between low wages and high rents. Many are paying 80 per cent of their incomes on rent. For the foreseeable future, it seems the Manna Food Bank will be a fact of life in Muskoka.
The task of the Food Bank is to ensure that the immediate needs of the hungry are met.
- No person loses social worth by becoming a client of a food bank.
- All persons requiring assistance will be given an appropriate food supply.
- All persons requesting assistance will be treated with dignity and in a non-judgmental manner.
- It is recognized that the lifestyle chosen by a person requesting assistance is a private concern and is not a matter for comment or condemnation.
- All information regarding persons requesting assistance is held in strictest confidence and is not discussed either among the food bank volunteers or with outsiders.
Code of Ethics
On December 3, 1997, The Manna Food Bank of Bracebridge, by a unanimous motion, endorsed the Code of Ethics of both the Canadian Association of Food Banks and the Ontario Association of Food Banks.