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Food bank serving parts of South Coast gets needed new home, allowing it to better serve community

Manna's new home in Thousand Oaks includes a storge and sorting area for donated food.
Manna's new home in Thousand Oaks includes a storge and sorting area for donated food.

Manna moves from 700 square foot converted house to new 5000 square foot facility in Conejo Valley.

A woman is shopping at a one of a kind market in the Conejo Valley. She’s putting food into a basket, but there’s no cash register, or checkout line. She’s in the food pantry at Manna, a non-profit organization which helps those in need.

Manna feeds about 75 households a week, and about 8000 a year in the Conejo Valley and Malibu. It’s a grass roots non-profit supported by the community.

"Manna is a is a local choice-based food pantry, serving the Conejo Valley for 51 years, providing food to those who are food insecure," said Leanne Portzel, who is the organization's Executive Director.

There’s big news for Manna. After years of operating from a tiny headquarters basically the size of an apartment, it now has a new home.

"This building is about 5000 square was originally a church," said Portzel. "We were able to save the church sanctuary, which we are using for our offices. But, then we added on an entire warehouse, complete with a basement...and then we have the pantry itself. It's close to about a two million dollar building.

Manna's old home was a converted one-bedroom house which was so small that shipping containers had to be put in the driveway to help store food.

The non-profit raised the money to buy the land, and got a loan for the construction project. It’s still trying to raise the final $1.2 million dollars so it will own the complex.

Portzel said the timing for the new North Oakview Drive building in Thousand Oaks couldn’t be better. The ability to move, and store more food comes as demand has spiked during the current economic crisis.

Manna Executive Director
Manna Executive Director Leanne Portzel in one of the refrigeration units at the non-profit's new Thousand Oaks home.

Manna's executive director said the community keeps Manna going through financial and food donations. The new building has an easy-drive by food donation dropoff spot, and a dedicated sorting area.

But, she said the best way to help is financially. The non-profit knows what food is in demand at any given time, and can buy it wholesale for much less than you can.

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.