Food distribution by nonprofits in metro Detroit increases as the need increases

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Forgotten Harvest, a non-profit organization that “rescues” extra food from grocery stores, restaurants and other places and delivers it to food banks, shelters and soup kitchens in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, is opening up 15 pantries including one at its headquarters in Oak Park, said Christopher Ivey, the organization’s director of marketing and communications.

Each pantry will serve 750 families at each location, located throughout Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, making sure the growing numbers of those who need food have access to it.

With the virus, Ivey has encountered shortages in personal protective equipment. 

“We don’t have enough masks and gloves for everyone,” said Ivey. “But every pantry is trying to work with what they have. 

Like Forgotten Harvest, the Ford Resources and Engagement Center, a non-profit community-based service organization in Detroit’s east and west sides, is seeing the demand for food increase.

FREC usually feeds about 65 families three days a week. Since the outbreak, that number has doubled and increases every day, said over the phone Carmen Mattia, FREC’s director.

The organization biggest challenge is getting enough food delivered, not the delivery itself, said Mattia.

Frank Kubik, Food Program Director at Focus: Hope, a non-profit organization in Detroit that provides job training for underrepresented populations, said its focus is delivering food to 600 to 700 home-bound seniors 60 years of age or older. 

“We do curbside service,” said Kubik over the phone so seniors don’t have to get out of their car.

When it comes to safety, Kubik said volunteers and employees have their temperatures checked often and must use masks and gloves. 

“We are making accommodations to make sure residents, staff and volunteers are safe and healthy,” said Kubik.

Infographic shows different locations and times of different food centers around Detroit. Infographic made on Canva by Payton Wells.

In Oakland County

Alexis Goodman, office manager for the Baldwin Center, a soup kitchen in Pontiac, said via phone her organization had to cut down on meals, but still feeds hundreds each week.

Goodman said: “Even though we aren’t serving our normal hot food and breakfast, we serve bag lunches outside every Monday,Wednesday and Friday. Everything is kind of crazy everywhere, but we have taken the transition very well. We plan everyday to feed about 200 people, and we always keep count.” 

Alexis Goodman, office manager at the Baldwin Center, said its soup kitchen’s staff is staying calm while distributing food to families in need. 

COVID-19’s effect on school food programs 

Ashley Monteleone, a West Side Academy teacher, said those students who struggle with receiving meals have options. Several restaurants in close proximity to the school located in Detroit are willing to give free meals to students. Monteleone also said the school is still providing meals so if students need food they can still go to the school.

Picture of Ashley Monteleone, a teacher at West Side Academy in Detroit, said students who need meals can get food at the school or some restaurants nearby.

Caitlyn Kienitz, a communications and marketing coordinator at Eastpointe Community Schools, a school district that serves Detroit and parts of Warren, are still distributing meals during the crisis and are planning to continue their efforts until the end of the school year.

Kienitz said over email: “We distribute grab-and-go style meals from five of our buildings, three days a week. When families pick up meals, they receive both breakfast and lunch to cover the days until the next distribution, including the weekend — so on Monday and Wednesday, they receive two of each per child, and on Friday they receive three.” 

Kienitz said “In the first three weeks we distributed a total of roughly 15,000 meals (breakfasts and lunches combined). So that’s just under 1,700 per distribution day which works out to about 850 breakfasts and 850 lunches.”

With the adjustments to digital classrooms curriculum, Kienitz said students can pick up work packets from several Eastpointe Community Schools during meal distribution.

Ivey said Forgotten Harvest has always served K-12 students food, distributing over 6,000 student lunches in metro Detroit.

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