Metro Detroit Community Leads the Nation In Fight Against Hunger
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This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.
Metro Detroit is working together to reduce hunger and waste in our community, and that includes 800 business outlets that donate their extra food to Forgotten Harvest.
The non-profit organization “rescues” surplus food that would otherwise go to waste and gives it free of charge to food-insecure families. Businesses like supermarkets, farms, warehouses, distributors, dairies, restaurants, caterers and entertainment venues all pitch in. It’s a real community effort.
Another big source of donations are the hydroponic growers across the border in Leamington, Ontario (known as the “Tomato Capital of Canada”) who provide a remarkable amount of fresh tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. That fits perfectly into Forgotten Harvest’s mission to prevent nutritious food waste.
“About 45 percent of what we distribute is fruit and vegetables,” said Michael Spicer, Forgotten Harvest’s vice president of operations. “This is grocery store-quality food,” Spicer explained. “The hydroponic growers harvest their greenhouses every eight to 12 weeks and they have more than they can distribute, so we are happy to help it get to the food insecure.”
“At the end of the day we are a logistics company, picking up from point A and delivering to point B,” Spicer said of Forgotten Harvest’s sophisticated distribution system that makes it one of the nation’s largest food rescue operations. “We have 35 trucks rescuing and delivering food to Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. Because of our business community’s commitment to donating surplus food and reducing hunger, we’re able to expedite the movement of that food and get it to the people who need it.”
All that perfectly good, nutritious (and tasty) food was previously being destroyed and going to waste into municipal landfills – where food accounts for 14.9 percent of waste.
Kroger donates more than 4.5 million pounds of food each year, said the supermarket chain’s corporate affairs manager, Rachel Hurst.
“The quality of food is outstanding. We have a very high standard of quality product,” Hurst said. “It has lowered our waste cost, but that isn’t the main goal. The main goal is to fight hunger in our communities, and what a great way to take the food we weren’t going to sell and donating it to a person in need.”
Many independent stores also donate surplus food. Thom Welch, president of Hollywood Markets, calls working with Forgotten Harvest “simple and effective” for his stores.
“What impresses me is that the [grocery rescue] trucks leave [the Oak Park headquarters] empty in the morning and go back empty at the end of the day, because whatever they picked up has already been dropped off for people to eat,” he said of Forgotten Harvest’s fleet of 35 trucks that “harvest” food surplus six days a week.
“And,” Welch added, “I am so impressed with how simple Forgotten Harvest makes it for us to donate food that is still perfectly good. Rather than us reducing the price or discarding it, it’s being put to good use.”
For Kroger, it’s been an “extremely seamless and incredible partnership,” said Hurst, noting that the corporation’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative dovetails perfectly with Forgotten Harvest’s goal to reduce both hunger and waste. “We are both driven to not send a child to bed or school hungry or to see a family sit down for dinner without a plan for a meal. We are in this together and together we will succeed.”
Because of its partnerships, Forgotten Harvest can provide $7 worth of food for every $1 donated. Donors work with the organization’s food sourcing team to arrange for a one-time pickup, multiple days per week or occasional/on-call pickup. (“It’s a complex operation,” Spicer said.) In 2016, that all added up to a remarkable 45.8 million pounds of food rescued for people who could otherwise go without.
“We are always looking for more donors and donations, because one in six people in metro Detroit face food insecurity, and about half of them are particularly vulnerable populations of seniors or children,” Spicer said. “We survive because of two things – over 800 food donors and 16,000 volunteers – and we could not do it without them. The metro Detroit community is remarkable in their commitment to help each other.”
Learn more, including how food businesses can donate surplus food, at forgottenharvest.org.
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Forgotten Harvest.
Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.