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MANNA FoodBank to close Franklin distribution center

MANNA FoodBank will close its Franklin distribution center by October, putting three part-time employees out of work as the agency moves to streamline its system and cut overall operating costs.

Cindy Threlkeld, executive director of the Asheville-based nonprofit, blamed rising food and fuel costs and potential threats to federal funds the agency relies on. MANNA’s distribution center in Franklin served as a clearinghouse and pass-through point for food supplies bound for “partnering agencies” in the western counties for 20 years.

Franklin headquarters the only branch office of MANNA, located on Depot Street.

The nonprofit had to make hard decisions about how to maintain the same level of service while cutting costs, Threlkeld said.

“We are fully committed to providing the same level of service, or even more,” she said. Online ordering was already used by most of the 250 agencies that tap MANNA’s food stores across a 16-county service area.

MANNA FoodBank Board Member Amy Grimes, executive director of The Community Table in Sylva, said the online system works well. She said the agencies that haven’t made the transition yet seem to understand the difficulties faced by MANNA, “and people seem OK with it. Everyone is having to make hard choices right now.”

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But MANNA will still need a pick-up point, a centralized location somewhere in the western counties where pallets of food can passed off to agencies. Threlkeld is currently hunting for such a site. It will not be a formal distribution center, however, such as the one in Franklin. The phase-out of the Franklin center will start in September, Threlkeld said.

On a more positive note, MANNA’s executive director said a couple in Henderson County has donated the entire production from a 5-acre orchard, contingent on MANNA handling the harvesting. Threlkeld said she foresees the agency ending up with some 150,000 pounds of apples, raising possibilities MANNA could trade apples with another food agency for other supplies.

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