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Working Together: Osher Members and Biotech Students Support Manna Food Center

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Nearly $13,000. More than 815 pounds of food.

That’s how much members of the Johns Hopkins University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute collected to donate to Manna Food Center. The food and funds drive is an annual Osher tradition that this year came with a new twist: JHU master’s in biotechnology students drove the food several times a week to Manna in Rockville. It was an example of the campus’ eldest students working with the campus’ youngest generation.

“This year, we were fortunate to have started an intergenerational initiative with Health Science Intensive students on campus, who helped us with the heavy lifting and actual delivery of the food to the Manna Center,” said Osher Program Supervisor Susan Howard. “Intergenerational partnerships benefit everyone by fostering empathy and improving our community. By working together as one group, we created a successful campaign for a very worthy cause.”

The Osher food drive for Manna began in 2008 by Osher members Sy and Ann Sokatch. As the economy slumped, they saw the need to help those in tough financial situations.

This year, Osher members donated cereal, pasta, soup, canned vegetables, nutrition shakes, tomato sauce, oatmeal squares, macaroni and cheese, applesauce, peanut butter and other items. Monetary contributions have been emphasized in recent years because Manna can leverage a $1 contribution into $3 to $5 worth of food.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at JHU has approximately 800 members. They are senior citizens who take non-credit courses in a wide range of subjects.

Manna, the main food bank in Montgomery County, feeds about 40,000 people annually, and collects and distributes more than 4 million pounds of food a year to qualifying families.

“We are so grateful to our partners at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at JHU,” said Manna Development Manager Mardia Dennis. “Donations such as theirs have helped provide Manna with the resources to combat food insecurity throughout Montgomery County. I am thrilled to see even some of the masters’ degree candidates bring in food donations weekly, even twice a week sometimes.”

Matt Santos was happy to help. Santos is a student in the Health Science Intensive concentration within the biotechnology program; he has his sights on medical school.

“With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I knew this was going to be important to a lot of people,” said Santos, who drove food to Manna. “For those of us who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine, we need to realize the importance of giving back to the community we live in. Small acts of kindness add up.”

Added classmate Eric You: “I’ve been living in Gaithersburg for more than eight years, and I thought this was a good opportunity for me to help out the community. I have seen many homeless people at the intersection between Shady Grove and Gaither roads, which made me realize many people still have trouble accessing basic needs such as food or shelter.”

CATEGORY: Academics, In The Community