How the Silver Spring Methodist Church’s food distribution program operates
The Silver Spring Methodist Church, located across the street from Blair, has been distributing food in partnership with the Manna Food Center for the past few years every second and fourth Saturday. Along with food distribution, the church also hosts cooking classes under Manna's "Chat and Chew" program to help people learn to cook the food received from the pantry.
The "Chat and Chew" program runs for an hour before the food distribution, giving those registered with Manna a chance to learn how to cook with the food they receive. "We're trying to showcase recipes that highlight some of the ingredients that people might be receiving at the pantry that day," Manna Director of Programs Jenna Umbraic says.
Manna’s Community Food Education Program manager, Cynthia Wilson, is in charge of the curriculum the cooking lessons follow. The lessons typically focus on a specific ingredient, exploring its health benefits and cooking a dish. While Wilson does head the conversation on what is being cooked, volunteers working at her side also discuss the dish with those watching the lessons. "It's good to have someone else chime in on something, to bring it down so that people can understand it and walk away with it," Wilson says.
Class sizes are small, typically not exceeding more than eight members. This allows for Manna staff to get to know participants and have honest dialogue. "We are definitely talking about the recipe, but we also want to establish a bond with you…with a smaller group, you develop a better rapport and they're more comfortable asking questions," Wilson says.
Building up this connection, Manna members often ask what those taking the cooking class would like to learn during the next food distribution. “We have folks that come out to meetings, and we'll ask them 'What is it you would like to learn? What recipes would you like?'" Wilson explains.
While Manna has other food education programs, the "Chat and Chew" program at Silver Spring Methodist Church is the only program like it in the area, due to the church’s licensed kitchen space. "We've had community food education for a few years now, in different shapes and forms. This is just an extension of that, and allows us to use this asset of the kitchen and combine it really nicely with the pantry that's happening that day," Umbraic explained.
Umbraic hopes to inspire those involved in the cooking lessons to continue to make healthy meals. "Hopefully, this is a chance for people to see those foods being prepared and to taste them and then get excited about trying them on their own," Umbraic says. The Manna pantry program at Silver Spring Methodist church ran for the past few years, and Manna workers look forward to continuing this food distribution program along with the new"Chat and Chew" program in the future.
Jasmine Ali. staff writer More »