Every year, the Adventure Treks team takes time out of the office to volunteer for local organizations. Most recently, we spent time with MANNA FoodBank in Asheville, NC! We have volunteered with MANNA before, but this time was even more special: Their new volunteer coordinator is none other than alumni instructor Nic Ames! Nic worked our Leadership Adventure Semester in spring 2022 and Colorado Explorer trips in summer 2022. Now, he’s in charge of coordinating nearly 3,000 volunteers who last year provided more than 50,000 hours of support for MANNA.
We got a full tour of MANNA’s warehouses in Asheville, getting to see how this organization distributed more than 18 million tons of food last year; in other words, 42,669 meals each day served nearly 110,000 people every month. MANNA partners with local grocery stores, farmers, retail businesses, individual donors, and public programs to source fresh and non-perishable food for distribution. Sourced food passes through these warehouses for sorting, quality control, and packaging to prepare it for distribution. MANNA then distributes food to their network of partnering agencies and MANNA Community Market partners to any member of the community who needs food and can attend these free distributions.
We spent the day in the sorting and quality control center with crates upon crates of bread and baked goods. Rose, one of MANNA’s employees, walked us through the process of ensuring that the expiration date allowed enough time for distribution and checking for damages in the packaging. We put our AT experience to good use as we sorted, re-packaged, and stacked food into pallets for distribution that week. The bread that was expired or otherwise unfit to distribute went to local pig farms—rather than into a landfill!
All of this food sorting got us excited for the summer, as we are now about two months away for the start of our instructor orientation! Adventure Treks prioritizes high-quality food—with fruits and vegetables, proteins, and grains at every meal—for our students and instructors throughout the summer. Last year, we built connections with local pig farmers near our west coast base in Washington to help convert our food waste into food for happy pigs! At the end of every season, the unopened and unexpired food from our programming gets donated to foodbanks like MANNA.
Programs like MANNA depend heavily on volunteers, and it was wonderful to play a small part in their operation! We are firm believers in service on a local level so that we can see how government, non-profit, and even for-profit organizations can build effective, supportive, and functional communities to care for its citizens. We hope our students can also learn to be engaged citizens in their hometowns to build empathy, discover new passions, and make new connections with people they otherwise may not have met!