A food pantry for our neighbors on or near Meridian Road. Coordinated by St. Stephen Lutheran Church and Faith Presbyterian Church, with the support of Saint Paul's Methodist Church and the Universalist Church of Tallahassee, along with other congregations, organizations and individuals.
We distribute bags of groceries, free of charge, at 9 a.m. on the third Saturday of the month at Faith Presbyterian Church, 2200 North Meridian Road (corner of John Knox Road).
The foods we distribute are peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, pasta, cereal and canned meat/fruits/vegetables/soup. (No glass containers please.) If you're not affiliated with one of the Manna congregations, call one of the numbers below to arrange for dropping off the food items. Thank you for your participation.
Make your check payable to St. Stephen Lutheran Church, with "Manna on Meridian" on the memo line, and mail it to St. Stephen Lutheran Church, 2198 N. Meridian Road, Tallahassee, FL 32303. Thank you for your contribution.
Call St. Stephen Lutheran Church at 850-385-2728 or
Faith Presbyterian Church at 850-385-6151.
In the fall of 2009, members of two Meridian Road congregations – Faith Presbyterian and St. Stephen Lutheran, literally across the street from each other – were struck almost simultaneously by the fact that our neighbors and even some members lacked sufficient food for themselves and their families. Some members of St. Stephen, inspired by Sara Miles’ book Take This Bread, had started a food pantry for members. They were discussing how they might expand those efforts to the community at large. At the same time, the Rev. Bea Edwards of Faith, concerned about the ever-increasing number of hungry people she encountered every day, had challenged members of her congregation to address hunger in Tallahassee. Pastor Bea approached St. Stephen Pastor Marda Messick with her vision of a joint ministry with the hope that the two churches could work together to ease hunger in our area. Bea and Marda invited interested members of their congregations to a joint meeting to explore how we might work together to provide food for their neighbors facing food insecurity. The cooperative interfaith food pantry Manna on Meridian was born.
A group of over 30 people from the two congregations met and formed committees to explore all aspects of operating a food pantry. Over the next four months, different groups studied how other pantries in town operated, how to spread the word, how to serve with dignity and hospitality and how our master gardeners might incorporate gardens into the effort. After several organizational meetings and with strong support from both congregations, the food pantry known affectionately as Manna first distributed bagged groceries in January 2010.Meanwhile, some group members contacted other congregations in the area. Their presentation stirred interest in Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee, also on Meridian Road. Within the first few months of operation, those congregations joined the effort, greatly expanding the meaning of the words “interfaith ministry.”
Early in the group’s deliberations, some decisions were made that continue to distinguish Manna from many other food pantries:
The food provided by Manna is a gift without questions asked. No federal funds are accepted, nor does Manna purchase food from federally supported programs, both of which actions would require identification and proof of need.
We welcome all with a hospitality table to enhance our goal of serving with dignity and respect.
We do all we can to offer fresh produce each month.
One hundred percent of food and money donated goes directly to feed the hungry.
The bags of groceries are distributed the third Saturday of the month at Faith. We began giving out 20 bags. By mid-2010 we were up to 100 bags per month, and the group agreed that we needed a board to handle the increasing operational challenges. The board consists of two members each from Faith, St. Stephen and Saint Paul’s, along with the pastors of Faith and St. Stephen to provide spiritual guidance and support.
Creative volunteers from all congregations have been critical to Manna’s ability to serve. The Faith congregation donated the space for the pantry in their building on Delta Court, which is adjacent to the church’s parking lot in back of their sanctuary. Steve Kunst of St. Stephen saw that sturdy shelves were constructed to solve the problem of heavy bags of groceries being stored on sagging tables and even on the floor.
In 2011, Faith Youth Pastor Shannon Guse implemented her vision of distributing gently used clothing during grocery distribution. The clothes closet she began has proven to be a huge asset for Manna recipients, especially with necessities like warm jackets in winter and shoes for all ages.
In 2010 and again in 2011, creative musicians led by St. Stephen vocalist Michael McKibben put together fundraising concerts that resulted in several thousand dollars of donations for Manna.
A community garden called God’s Giving Garden is yet another unique aspect of Manna. Nathan Ballantine of Faith helped start the garden and conducted a series of gardening workshops for recipients during distribution. The garden now produces fresh vegetables that are harvested by 20 to 30 volunteers from Manna recipients. The elementary-age children of Faith plant the five raised beds in fall and spring with seasonally appropriate items that are given away at Manna distribution.
We use 30 to 40 volunteers putting in close to 90 hours to handle all the tasks needed to distribute bagged groceries once a month. Our congregations donate about 40 percent of the food we distribute, and the remainder is purchased with donated funds. We estimate each bag costs $25.
Funds permitting, we spend up to $3,500 each month on shelf and fresh goods. At times, lack of funds has caused us to decrease the amount of food per bag. Thanks be to God, we do not turn anyone away. We see that everyone who comes for a bag of groceries leaves with a bag. We have a template for the contents of each bag. In order to see that everyone leaves with something, we may have to alter the contents of the last bags we assemble if we’re low on some items. Nonetheless, each bag weighs 25 pounds.
We have received one grant from the statewide Presbyterian Church thanks to the grant-writing talents of board member Marie Krafft. The Thrivent chapter at St. Stephen has matched donations on several occasions and given Manna one grant outright. Donations are incredibly generous. Manna spends all we receive on food each month. In recent years, Manna has been able to achieve its mission with the assistance of many community agencies and churches in Tallahassee, such as Grace Lutheran Church and Railroad Square Merchants.
The numbers we serve have gradually increased. In 2012, we were averaging 180 bags of groceries distributed each month. In 2014, we have been giving away 200 to 220 bags each month. We serve a wide range of people, including many seniors. Several of our guests have commented that they would not have enough food to get through the month without Manna on Meridian. Each month we do not have to look far to see that more and more of our neighbors are dealing with food insecurity.
Written by Sue Canning in 2012 (updated in 2014)