Manna Food Bank’s Virtual Food Drive Is Back On November 1

Manna Virtual Fall Food Drive

For many years, Manna Food Bank held a door-to-door food drive alongside the Muskoka Oldtimers Hockey Club, but the tradition went virtual for the first time in 2020. After a year away, the virtual food drive is back, running from Nov. 1 to 15.

The Bracebridge-based food bank and the Muskoka Oldtimers are aiming to raise $25,000 over the two weeks. Donors can contribute through the CanadaHelps online portal, by e-transfer or by cheque. Cheques can be mailed to Manna Food Bank at PO Box 462, Bracebridge, ON, P1L 1T8 or dropped off at their facility at 345 Ecclestone Drive. All of the money collected will be used by the Manna team to buy food for their clients since the food bank runs entirely on donations.

“When we had the door-to-door food drive, it was always a good way for a community to participate,” said Neil Somerville, director-at-large for Manna Food Bank and one of the organizers for the virtual food drive. “Sometimes the food wasn’t the freshest, or they’re cleaning out grandma’s kitchen or some things that shouldn’t have gone to the food drive, so this way we get to get better quality and meet the needs of our clients for healthier food choices.”

By purchasing the food themselves, the team at Manna has been able to replace many canned vegetables with frozen vegetables, which retain more nutrients and often contain less salt. They’ve also been able to offer frozen meats, like whole chickens and ground beef, as well as products like milk that they weren’t previously able to obtain. Still, rising costs affect the food bank just as it affects the people who rely on them.

The need for Manna’s services has increased consistently throughout the last few years, so the team opted to allow clients to come every three weeks instead of once a month. The change has been great for their clients, but it does mean an increase in costs. 

The demographics of their client base often change as well. While they still serve many seasonal employees and others currently off work, they’re seeing more and more people who are employed and need support anyways. Last month, Somerville said the majority of individuals coming to the food bank were actively employed.

“We’re seeing a lot more people that are working who are coming to use our food banks,” he said. “It’s interesting to note that probably a third of our client numbers are children, so there are single individuals, but there’s a lot of families that obviously use our services as well.”

All donors for the virtual drive will receive a tax receipt, and donations of all amounts help support their annual costs at Manna, Somerville said. Even $2 a week can make a difference, and CanadaHelps allows contributors to set the frequency of donations so that locals can provide ongoing support in any amount.

The food bank is always interested in bringing new volunteers on board as well, so for people that may have time rather than money to give, adding their names to the volunteer list is a great way to get involved. With no paid staff members, the food bank relies entirely on volunteers to continue its operations.

There are 11 food banks in Muskoka, and though Manna is just a small part of that, they wouldn’t be able to provide the services they do without volunteers and frequent community support, Somerville said. Many local groups still hold food drives, whether it be part of individual efforts, school collections or as an extra element to sporting events, so the food bank receives many nonperishables in addition to monetary donations.

“The community is wonderful,” Somerville said. “They really do support us in so many fashions. The service clubs, like the Rotary and, of course, the Oldtimers help out, even Beaver Creek, throughout the summer, would provide produce that they would grow out there.”

The Muskoka Oldtimers Hockey Club has been supporting Manna Food Bank in their Fall Food Drive for over 25 years. While they used to spearhead collections of food, Somerville said they now play a critical role in getting the word out to the community.

Doug Kamachi, president of the Muskoka Oldtimers, has been with the team for over 30 years. He said it was founded primarily by teachers, and they got involved in the food drive when one of their own had a friend working at Manna.

“Since our hockey team was mostly a teachers’ group, even back then, we could see the need in our classrooms of those struggling families, of kids coming to school hungry,” Kamachi said. “That’s what made it important as a group to try and help out the food bank.”

After taking a break from the Fall Food Drive last year, Kamachi said they’re looking forward to having some community involvement once again. The drivers and other volunteers from the Oldtimers that used to collect and deliver food are now focusing all their efforts on getting friends, family and neighbours involved.

The response has always been positive, and with food banks reporting the highest usage rates in Canadian history, community contributions are needed more than ever. As an area with many seasonal workers and families in need of support, Kamachi wants to remind Muskoka residents of the importance of extending a helping hand.

“Once we switched to a virtual food drive, it sort of takes away that direct door-to-door interaction with the community, so it’s certainly a different feel to it,” he said. “But we know that this community has been very generous in the past, so we’re hoping that that generosity continues.”

For more information on donating to Manna’s Virtual Fall Food Drive, visit the food bank’s website.

Manna Virtual Fall Food Drive


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