Golden Celebration: Food Pantries Achieve Top Award 

Gleaners recognizes partner pantries’ completion of the Nutrition Pantry Program. 

Staff members and guests recently celebrated the outstanding achievements of three partner food pantries: Farley Hill, Fish & Loaves, and Oxford/Orion FISH. The staff and volunteers at these pantries recently completed months-long efforts, alongside Gleaners’ nutrition education staff, to implement best practices into their food distribution policies, systems, and environments, earning them the Nutrition Pantry Program’s highest honor: the gold certification.  

Attendees gathered at Gleaners’ headquarters in Detroit for the event, which featured individual introductions, presentations by Gleaners’ team members about each pantry’s efforts, refreshments, networking opportunities and a behind-the-scenes tour of the historic warehouse.  

Melissa Gervais, Program Manager for the Gleaners’ nutrition education team, welcomed attendees and provided an overview of the Nutrition Pantry Program (NPP), which Gleaners offers to its food pantry partners in coordination with Leah’s Pantry, a national nonprofit committed to a vision of all people being nourished, regardless of socioeconomic status. The NPP teaches best practices for supporting client and community-centered food distributions through a trauma-informed lens.  

Several of Gleaners’ program specialists and coordinators have been working with the three award-winning pantries to identify and implement improvements that will help them best serve their unique communities.  

Myriam Saidy, a Gleaners’ program specialist, spoke on behalf of Fish & Loaves Community Food Pantry, located in Taylor. Over the past several months, Myriam has been assisting the efforts of Fish & Loaves staff and volunteers to make meaningful enhancements in the areas of nutrition education, cultural and dietary accommodations, and reducing food waste.  

To bolster the pantry’s nutrition education efforts, Fish & Loaves has begun hosting healthy recipe tastings, started offering a greater array of recipe and nutrition-focused handouts to guests and trained staff and volunteers in basic nutrition and food handling best practices. In addition, Fish & Loaves is encouraging healthy selections by their attractive, thoughtful food placement throughout the pantry, reinforced by bright, colorful new signage.  

To better serve the community, Myriam worked with Fish & Loaves on ways to improve cultural and dietary accommodations for pantry guests. The pantry offers halal and kosher foods when available, and now utilizes labels and signs in English, Arabic and Spanish to help guests and volunteers communicate. To make sure it’s inclusive of all diets, Fish & Loaves offers low sodium, low sugar, gluten free and vegan items, as well as baby food – a very popular item for families!  

To reduce food waste, Myriam shared that Fish & Loaves has teamed up with a local farm, which takes any food that is beyond human consumption and shares it with their animals.  

For all of these efforts and their dedicated commitment to serving their neighbors, Fish & Loaves Community Food Pantry was awarded the Nutrition Pantry Program’s Gold Certification. 

Gleaners’ program coordinator Jake Bekemeyer then shared his experience working with Oxford/Orion FISH Food Pantry, located in Oxford. He has made strong connections with the pantry staff and volunteers who have been eager to learn about the best practices for their food pantry and implement new ideas.  

Jake helped Oxford/Orion FISH update their signage with large, colorful, easy-to-read nutrition information like how to read expiration dates, the MyPlate nutritional standards, and more. To extend the pantry’s nutrition education efforts, they’ve partnered with Gleaners to host recipe tastings and are exploring the opportunity to host a future Cooking Matters class.  

He also shared about Oxford/Orion FISH’s innovative Adopt-a-Shelf program, where local businesses, individuals and groups take responsibility for keeping a specific shelf stocked with items, encouraging community involvement while providing a reliable resource for donated items.  

In recognition of the enhancements made and their dedication to the Nutrition Pantry Program and serving the greater community, Oxford/Orion FISH Food Pantry was also awarded a Gold Certification. 

Sara Skar, another of Gleaners’ program coordinators, spoke on behalf of Farley Hill Elementary Food Pantry, located in Pinckney. She introduced the dedicated Farley Hill volunteers in attendance, who shared the history of the pantry, which was started in 2007 in response to situational poverty in the community stemming from the closure of two major employers: Ford and Pfizer.  

Farley Hill Elementary School Principal, Yvonne Taylor, began the effort that has become the Farley Hill Elementary Food Pantry by offering a few shelves’ worth of food to students and families, donated by herself, then teachers and administrators. The effort has grown over the years to fill a large classroom-sized pantry, now serving approximately 350 people per week with a staff of 24 volunteers.  

As part of the NPP program, Sara worked with Farley Hill to produce large, laminated posters with nutrition education information about food choice, health needs, and reducing waste. Sara worked with pantry staff and Gleaners’ agency relations representative to fully review Farley Hill’s handbook, providing updated policies and procedures. Farley Hill staff and volunteers also completed the NPP trauma-informed training, hosted a healthy recipe tasting and has begun collecting client feedback through surveys.  

For its extraordinary work in serving the community, dedicated corps of volunteers, and all the upgrades and enhancements it has undertaken, the Farley Hill Food Pantry was awarded a Gold Certification from the Nutrition Pantry Program.  

Each pantry was presented with a framed certificate indicating the completion of the Nutrition Pantry Program at the highest level. Although these three pantries have officially graduated, Gleaners continues to onboard new pantries into the program, and remains committed to serving as a lifetime resource for every pantry partner, providing guidance, support, and programs to extend Gleaners’ impact beyond food distribution.  

Congratulations to Farley Hill, Fish & Loaves and Oxford/Orion FISH! We are grateful to have such dedicated food pantry partners who are committed to providing the highest level of service to every guest in our community.