During the COVID-19 pandemic, people in need are facing even more barriers when it comes to accessing well-rounded meals. While millions of households across Michigan have lost income, the price of groceries grew by 2.6% in April. That is the largest monthly increase since 1974, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
From our drive-up food distributions to ongoing support for our partner agencies—our aim is to deliver nutritious food. Guests receive well-balanced groceries, including fresh milk, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and shelf-stable items. Our hope that by offering quality food in higher quantities, we are helping families and individuals stay home, stay safe, and stay nourished during this urgent time of need.
Groceries Delivered through Drive-up Distributions
Since mid-March, up to six drive-up food distribution sites have been operating five days a week, with alternating Saturday events. A great deal of planning and logistics ensures each household we serve receives a variety of nutritious food. Nicole Zammit, Food Access Program Manager at Gleaners, helps build the food menu at our drive-up distributions, ensuring each site can offer nutritious food to meet the needs of growing kids and their families.
Palettes of sorted and packed emergency food are transported from Gleaners’ Distribution Centers to food distribution sites by large refrigerated trucks. On location, Gleaners’ staff organizes each type of food into household-sized portions. With the support of the USDA, local governments and countless food donors and supporters, each family who visits our distributions receives an average of 36 pounds—the equivalent of 30 adult meals. Staff carefully places each type of food in the trunk of a car, and guests are on their way to eating healthy.
What guests are saying:
“I was very happy with the food; it has been very difficult to get to the store.”
“I can use the food right away… I was able to make the kids tuna for lunch and also made them snacks with apples and peanut butter.”
“It’s all the food I would normally buy…and had items that the store did not have like potatoes and onions.”
A recent survey of a sample set of guests reported that 70% of households these sites serve have attended at least two distributions—showing that the increase level of need remains consistent.
Gleaners’ drive-up food distribution sites will distribute food through the end of September. Most of the sites operate every other week, with some of the locations operating monthly.
More Produce is on the Way
In the first two months of our emergency response efforts, Gleaners distributed 6.4 million pounds of food—twice the normal amount. Nearly 30% of this food was fresh fruits and vegetables. With the help of local distributors, each of our food distribution sites will be offering even more fresh produce to families in need starting May 18.
This is made possible through the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. In mid-April the plan was announced to support the agriculture industry by purchasing dairy, meat and produce to distribute to food banks. This support offers relief to local farmers, ranchers and distributors affected by the crisis, and allows food banks and community organizations to continue to deliver nutritious food to our hungry neighbors.
More Milk in Transit
During the month of April, Gleaners saw a new record for milk distribution—54,000 gallons! This accomplishment was made possible by new refrigerated vehicles due to donations by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Carrier and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. This support will help Gleaners reach our goal to deliver fresh milk at each of our drive-up food distribution sites and School Food Mobiles.
Milk is one of our most requested but rarely donated items at Gleaners. Over the past four years, our team has put in diligent and innovative work to deliver this highly nutritious, yet perishable item out to people in need. Read more here.
Well-balanced, High Protein Foods for At-risk Communities
In partnership with the Food Bank Council of Michigan and state governments, Gleaners has produced several waves of emergency food boxes during the current crisis. Sarah Mills, Director of Wellness and Nutrition Education at Gleaners carefully designs each box menu with enough nutritionally balanced shelf-stable foods for approximately 22 meals. The food is both healthy and versatile, allowing our guests to use the products in multiple ways and prepare wholesome breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Mills’ team also creates custom recipe and nutrition information for each box.
Emergency boxes are being built at our Distribution Centers in Oakland and Wayne county. Gleaners is working with a wide variety of partners to ensure these boxes are delivered to our most at-risk neighbors, including seniors, veterans, healthcare patients, new mothers, and many others.
Fresh Produce at Gleaners’ Pantries & Partner Agencies
As we continue to distribute food to our network of partner agencies, fresh produce remains a top priority. For example, during the month of April, Gleaners’ Mercado Food Hub in southwest Detroit distributed more than 54,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to households in need.
In 2019, fresh produce accounted for 37% of Gleaners’ food distribution. This was made possible through partnerships with local farmers and food producers, as well as working with our partner agencies to ensure fresh produce can be safely delivered to people in need. Read more about our recent work to increase access to fresh produce here.
During a distribution at Third Hope Baptist Church in Detroit, brothers James and Byron waited in line for emergency food. The brothers live together, raising their young children and taking care of their elderly mother under one roof. Due to the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order, both James and Byron have lost their income, leaving the entire household without financial support. James was laid off from a manufacturing job, and Byron’s work as a truck driver was suspended. With no income, feeding their kids has become a daily struggle. “Some restaurants are offering free food to kids—which is great! But the food we receive from this distribution lasts much longer and I think it’s better for our kids,” said James. “It seems like Detroit is hit hard, and we know we aren’t alone in this pain. What Gleaners and the food pantries can do will truly make a difference. And help us stay safe.”