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Poverty Has No Zip Code: Forgotten Harvest

 

The need for nutritious food for children, families, and seniors throughout metro Detroit has surged since the COVID pandemic and economic shutdown took hold last March and increased food insecurity by more than 50% for thousands of lower income and hourly wage workers throughout the region.

As we move into August, the need for good quality food remains extremely high for families facing an uncertain future with jobs scarce and school openings in jeopardy. This ever-changing environment deserves our attention and support to provide a hand or donation to those in need.


An exceptional organization that has been doing great things for families in need since 1990 is ​Forgotten Harvest, ​the Oak Park, Michigan-based company​ ​that is best known for rescuing food surpluses from grocery stores, markets, and restaurants. In March, ​Forgotten Harvest ​initiated an Emergency Response Plan to expand their operations to help serve this growing demand. This has included a new distribution center in Royal Oak, ​and ​17 Forgotten Harvest “On the Go” mobile pantry ​distribution sites​ t​ hroughout metro Detroit. The mobile pantries were up and operating within a week delivering family boxes and supplemental lunches for kids.





If you are feeling the desire to get involved in a trustworthy organization that is making a positive difference, ​Forgotten Harvest makes it easy to safely volunteer. ​ The team at Forgotten Harvest has taken extra care and precautions to ensure that all sites and facilities adhere to strict Michigan Department of Health and CDC safeguards including required PPE so volunteers feel secure about helping out. Individuals can either sign up online or contact the volunteer manager at ​volunteer@forgottenharvest.org​ to register; groups must register through the volunteer manager.


Volunteer opportunities at the Royal Oak warehouse or one of the mobile pantry distribution sites ​are described in more detail under the volunteer tab on www.forgottenharvest.org​. Without extensive support from volunteers Forgotten Harvest will not be able to operate its repackage lines at full capacity to help families. Chris Ivey, director of Marketing and Communication, recently told me that ​The Royal Oak facility at 14 Mile and Coolidge remains in ramp-up mode and can use our help Right Now! ​  With the support of around 400 volunteers a week, Royal Oak can provide more than 3500 emergency food boxes per day to distribute to our community.

In addition, the ​17 drive-thru mobile pantries​, a vital part of distributing rescued and purchased food, ​require 15 to 20 volunteers per site​. Each site can service up to 750 households every week.


Tarence Wheeler, director of corporate and community affairs for the River Rouge School District, said during a recent interview provided on the Forgotten Harvest website that the River Rouge mobile pantry has given out over 100,000 meals since starting in February. Mr. Wheeler provided the tagline I believe is so powerful and on the mark ​“Poverty has no zip code.”​ Every week new families show up wanting good quality food, highlighting the growing need to Tarence, Forgotten Harvest staff, and other volunteers. This need is unrelenting and requires our time and support.


For a little inspiration to step up and volunteer, check out this wonderful story about long-time volunteers Art Weinfield and Bert Stein from the Forgotten Harvest Winter 2020 Newsletter.


Volunteer Story: Altruism


Long-time volunteers Art Weinfield and Bert Stein find purpose, camaraderie and a higher purpose in volunteering with Forgotten Harvest Bert Stein, 86, and Art Weinfeld, 90, are good friends and regular helpers at Forgotten Harvest, where they’ve been volunteering for a combined eight years.  While they both feel that the experience is about giving more than receiving, they end up receiving a lot: fellowship with staff members, community-building with volunteer groups, and purposeful time together.    “It’s not wise if you’re healthy to waste time,” says Art. “At the end of the day, whatever you’ve done, you want to feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Art and Bert volunteer as much as they are able at least two afternoons per week. “It keeps us mentally alert,” says Art.



It also provides purpose. “It’s a lucky retiree that finds something to do to help others less fortunate,” says Bert. “Art and I are helping all of those who haven’t been as lucky as we’ve been with our health, our finances, or whatever.”   Because of Bert and Art’s attendance and keen familiarity with packaging anything that enters the warehouse, they fill more of an oversight and guidance role, labeling items that volunteer groups pack and putting them in the correct shipping crates for distribution.  Bert is particularly impressed by the level of volunteer commitment from area corporations and faith-based groups. He’s worked with employees from Quicken Loans, Art Van, DTE, AT&T, General Motors and dozens of others. “Large and small companies want employees giving back, volunteering,” says Bert. “They work extremely hard and walk out tired. It’s a good tired. They feel rewarded.”

As Forgotten Harvest individual volunteers, Art and Bert understand that feeling too.

“Personally, it’s fun to walk in here. The camaraderie is strong, and the leadership makes you comfortable,” says Bert. “We found a home.”



The expanded ​Emergency Response Program​ requires more than $1.3 million monthly for food, staffing, and supplies. This essential response needs our donations. According to Forgotten Harvest, a ​donation of $150 provides $2,100 worth of groceries for area families in need.


Go to ​donations@forgottenharvest.org​ or call 888-332-7140


Since COVID took hold in March, Forgotten Harvest has been flexible with its donation focused events. ​Comedy Night with Jay Leno ​scheduled for April 23​ was postponed to a later date and replaced by ​Feeding Detroit: A Motor City Meal-A-Thon​ on June 30​ that brought together celebrities and athletes in a motivating event with important contributions from Kristen Bell, Lily Tomlin, Matt Stafford, Jay Leno, Mitch Album, Tony Hawk, Darren McCarty, and ​Nancy Fishman​.

It is amazing to note that Forgotten Harvest is celebrating its 30​ year serving our community. Founder Nancy Fishman commented on the telethon that the organization has come a long way from her first days rescuing food in her Jeep to delivering over 46 million pounds of food every year, an accomplishment that would not be possible without contributions from donors, supporters, and volunteers.


If you are looking for a great way to contribute and give back to families in our communities, organizations like ​Forgotten Harvest​ make it easy to get involved by volunteering with your family, church, or business. I plan on setting up a work session with my family next month. ​ How about you?




Volunteers are Needed!


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