As food banks run low, state calls for donations to fill need during pandemic

The Detroit News

State officials are calling on businesses to donate to the Food Bank Council of Michigan and other nonprofits to help pantries straining to meet demand during the coronavirus pandemic, state officials said Wednesday.

National Guard personnel helped the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, part of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, sort items for distribution last month in Flint.

The council, which supports more than 3,000 local food banks, soup kitchens and pantries across Michigan, likely won't receive food through a federal program until July, representatives for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement.

Meanwhile, like other areas across the country, demand is rising in the state, with food banks operating at four times their normal capacity, the release said. 

“Food donations are desperately needed to meet historically high demand at a time when food supplies are dangerously low, and collectively, we can make a huge difference," said Gary McDowell, director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The department has partnered with the Governor's Office and the council to boost the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Initiative, which launched this month and allows the state to accept donations of money, food or other needed supplies.

Food and agriculture businesses have made large donations to the program, including:

•McDonald’s of Michigan, which Wednesday delivered items such as apple slices, English muffins, buns, apple juice and cheese slices to the Greater Lansing Food Bank. The McDonald’s Owner/Operators of Michigan are also donating $25,000 to state food banks. Sysco, which has locations in Grand Rapids, Canton Township and Monroe, donated 48,000 pounds of products, valued at $94,000.

•Peterson Farms Inc., of Shelby, donated more than 100,000 pounds of unsweetened applesauce made from Michigan apples valued at nearly $78,000. 

• McDonald’s Owners/Operators of Michigan donated 7,300 pounds of products, valued at $5,000, to Forgotten Harvest in Oak Park, Food Gatherers in Ann Arbor, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan in Flint, Feeding America West Michigan in Comstock Park, the South Michigan Food Bank in Battle Creek and the Greater Lansing Food Bank, to help alleviate shortages.

Since COVID-19 cases emerged in the state, other companies also have donated to food banks, including United Dairy Industry of Michigan contributing $200,000 in matching grants and the Michigan Milk Producers Association planning to contribute 2,020 pounds of milk daily this year to the Food Bank Council of Michigan.

“These donations from Michigan food and agriculture businesses will make a huge difference to families affected by COVID-19 and will shore up our food bank system at a time when it’s really needed," Whitmer said.

Food and agriculture businesses seeking arrange for a donation can email To donate online, go to