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Nearly Half-Century Old South Coast Foodbank Finally Getting New Home

Jennifer Schwabauer, Manna’s Executive Director, in the non-profit's many food area.
Jennifer Schwabauer, Manna’s Executive Director, in the non-profit's main food storage area.

The food bank has been operating out of a 700 square foot house in Conejo Valley for three decades.

In a tiny house in a quiet Conejo Valley neighborhood, people come to get help. If you drove by it, you wouldn’t give it a second glance. But, for decades, people have left this house with bags and boxes of food which have been the difference between eating and going hungry.

The house may be tiny, but the job the non-profit called MANNA-Conejo Valley Food Bank does is huge. Most people simply know it as MANNA. It’s fed hundreds of thousands of people in need in the Conejo Valley during its history.

MANNA only has two full time and one part time staff members. An army of volunteers help run it. But, MANNA needs some help itself. By comparison, it makes the inside of a 7/11 look huge. It's located in a 700 square foot 1940s era home.

MANNA Executive Director Jennifer Schwabauer says they’ve really had to improvise. Cold storage is mostly a series of old refrigerators. There have been times when they’ve had to say no to donations because they simply couldn’t store it. And, they have a shipping container in the driveway to help with storage.

After years of planning and fundraising, the non-profit is tackling their space problem. MANNA broke ground on what will be a 3,000 square foot new location in Thousand Oaks.

The project is a leap of faith. It’s expected to cost about $1.8 million. The non-profit has $600,000, and is hoping the community will step up to help with the remaining $1.2 million.

The organization survives with food donations by individuals and businesses, as well as through various types of grants.

MANNA 2021.docx
MANNA, Conejo Valley Food Bank Rendering
Artist's illustration of new home being built for MANNA, Conejo Valley Food Bank after decades operating out of converted house.

MANNA’s clients say they don’t know what they would do without the help.

Schwabauer says the need for food assistance isn’t going to disappear in the Conejo Valley. She says even when people are working, many are living on the edge of crisis and are one car breakdown or one rent hike away from going hungry.

See what the non-profit's new home will look like and find out more about the fundraising effort at MANNA.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.