Community Kitchen in Silver Spring Church Aims To Make Use of Discarded Produce

Manna Food Center creates partnership to provide meals for county’s residents in need


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Volunteers work in the new community kitchen.

VIA MANNA FOOD CENTER

Locally grown produce that’s slated for the landfill because it’s not considered perfect enough to grace the shelves of stores and markets will be transformed into dishes to feed the hungry, thanks to a partnership between a local nonprofit and a Silver Spring church.  

On Saturday, Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg and Silver Spring United Methodist Church will host the opening ceremony for a community kitchen coming to the church’s Four Corners Campus location at 33 University Blvd. East. Volunteers will use the kitchen to turn unused produce from local farms and farmers’ markets into prepared food to be distributed to Montgomery County residents in need.

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Rev. Angela Flanagan, lead pastor at the church, and Manna CEO Jackie DeCarlo are expected to speak at the 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting. Tours of the kitchen l also will be available.

Beginning July 1, guest chefs from companies including Marriott International and Sodexo and community volunteers will use misshapen or bruised produce collected from local farms and farmers’ markets to create foods such as coleslaw, banana bread and tomato sauce.

“First and foremost we’re hoping to bring people together to build skills around healthy food preparation, as well as reduce the amount of food that is wasted by producing it into foods like banana bread and coleslaw,” DeCarlo said.

The idea for the community kitchen comes from a joint desire by the church and Manna, the largest food assistance program in the county, to combat food insecurity in the county, where one in three children in county public schools receives free or reduced price meals, according to a press release. The community kitchen is aimed at serving the eastern part of the county, where food insecurity is even more prevalent.  

“A central part of our mission is to ensure that no one goes hungry in our community,” Flanagan said in the release.  “This commitment to feeding people and making sure all are invited to the table comes out of our Christian faith.”

The opening of the community kitchen adds to the list of programs offered by Manna, a food bank that began in 1983 with a goal of ending hunger for county residents. Today, the organization distributes more than 16,000 pounds of food daily and serves more than 32,000 residents throughout the year through mobile kitchens and pop-up pantries, nutritional education programs and “Smart Sacks,” which provides backpacks of food that students take home on weekends.

Any county resident that comes to a Manna Food Center program is welcome and will be served, DeCarlo said.

The opening of the kitchen marks the second partnership between Manna and the church, following the 2016 opening in the church of Manna’s Choice Pantry, which allows people to choose the food they want for their families. “Hunger and food insecurity are complex problems that require broad partnerships and creative thinking,” DeCarlo said in the release.

The food produced in the community kitchen will be distributed using Manna’s Community Food Rescue, a network of dozens of hunger relief organizations, businesses and food processing companies that links county residents in need with food that would have otherwise not been used or thrown away.

In addition to preparing food for residents, the community kitchen space will also offer community cooking classes to teach community members healthy recipes and nutritional information.  

DeCarlo said she is hopeful the partnership between Manna and the church will spark a new wave of enthusiasm around healthy eating and minimizing food waste in the community.

“We’re hoping it sends a signal to the community that there are new ways to fight hunger and new ways to be involved with that fight,” DeCarlo said. 

 

 

 

 

 

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