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Gleaners Community Food Bank – Feeding the Hearts and Bellies of Metro Detroit

By: Ken Cross | August 6, 2012
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Detroit is in the midst of an amazing renaissance.  Talented artists, forward thinkers and businesses by the droves are coming to live, work and play in our fair city. And not only are they experiencing all that Detroit has to offer by way of art, culture and nightlife, they have their pick of some of the most delicious – and not to mention multi-cultural – places to eat.

Yet, even with this abundance of food at our disposal, there is still the family who has to choose between having heat and eating dinner. There’s a senior citizen who goes hungry because they can’t afford their medicine and groceries. There’s a homeless veteran who is struggling and starving. There are countless stories of people who are hungry and hopeless, and have nowhere to turn.

That’s where Gleaners Food Bank comes in. Gleaners has helped feed hundreds of thousands of hungry people throughout southeastern Michigan since 1977. In 2011 alone, Gleaners distributed more than  40 million pounds of food to nearly 600 soup kitchens, homeless shelters, senior homes, and food pantries in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties.  That’s roughly the equivalent of 85,284 meals per day provided to hungry seniors, families and the homeless.

But the help they provide doesn’t end there.  Last year, Gleaners helped educate and feed nearly 95,000 hungry children through educational programs and school-based mobile pantries. Through these school and community-based programs, children were able to learn more about the importance of nutrition and have the opportunity to build their self-esteem through community volunteering and peer-based education.

Gleaners also is the main food supplier of the Detroit Veterans Center – a program run by veterans to help other veterans with the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life. Gleaners provides roughly 85% of the food to the facility to help ensure the struggling veterans get at least three meals per day.

But where does Gleaners get their food from?

Much of the food is donated by area farmers, grocery stores, and food manufacturers, while other food is purchased in large amounts at a low cost.  A percentage also comes from food drives organized by the community. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides some pantry staples as well.

Interestingly enough, some of the food that is provided to Gleaners is stock that would otherwise go to waste – but not for reasons you would think.  Once, several thousand boxes of “a popular breakfast cereal” were donated by the manufacturer because the cereal contained more than the maximum amount of raisins allowed. In other cases, something as innocuous as a labeling error on the shipment kept the product from being sold in markets, and Gleaners was able to keep the food from going to waste.

Even more interesting is the fact that more than half of the food is distributed to their partners with no cost. So, as you can imagine, every dollar they do earn through donations or through their purchased food programs, helps considerably.

In fact, out of every dollar that is donated to Gleaners, 94 cents goes directly back toward food and food programs. The remaining 6 cents is spent on costs for operations, including their 85 full-time employees and their five locations. They rely on the help of their more than 32,000 volunteers to help distribute and feed the hungry throughout the area.

The most important thing to know  – and remember – is that Gleaners is more than just a place where hungry people in need can go to cop a free meal. It’s an organization that is committed to helping educate families how to budget, shop for and prepare meals that are nutritious AND economical. They are dedicated to children and providing them with the nutrition they need in order to learn, grow and become productive members of society. They are devoted to raising awareness and responding to the needy with kindness, care and nourishment.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities (kids can volunteer, too!), or upcoming local events to help raise money or donate food, visit the Gleaners Community Food Bank website at: http://www.gcfb.org.

It’s through hard work and compassion that Gleaners Community Food Bank will fight hunger in metro Detroit one meal at a time.

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