Why the carrot? It's nutritious, practical and has deep roots, just as Food Gatherers has deep roots in our community.
We believe that in a land of plenty, no one should go hungry!
As the food rescue and food bank program serving Washtenaw County, Food Gatherers exists to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes in our community.
- We are committed to providing the best possible service to the community. Service guides all that we do.
- All Food Gatherers' actions are based on our commitment to serve people experiencing hunger.
- We are committed to distributing safe, usable, nutritious and appealing food.
- We believe that food is a basic human right.
- We are committed to the ideal of a world in which all people have food, shelter, meaningful work, dignity and freedom.
- To us, growth is two-fold: a commitment to long-term strategic planning as well as responsiveness to the needs of the community and to new opportunities for meeting those needs.
- We recognize and honor the different roles and responsibilities of the staff and the board of directors, but view this core group as members of one team working toward a common goal.
- The same values that guide our service to the community also guide our relations to one another.
- We believe that everyone can play a role in the fight against hunger.
- We fight hunger efficiently. We regard the gifts of food, money and time that we receive as a sacred trust to be administered for the most effective hunger relief possible.
- We are a fiscally responsible organization.
Who we serve
150 non-profit agencies and programs providing direct food assistance in the form of hot meals, nutritious snacks or emergency groceries to low-income adults, seniors and children in Washtenaw County
Food Gatherers provides our agency partners with:
- Mostly free (70%) and low cost food
- Capacity building grants
- Training to register eligible clients for federal and state benefit programs
- Customized food safety training by licensed food safety professionals on our staff
Food Gatherers provides direct service through our Community Kitchen and Job Training Program located in the Robert J. Delonis Center in downtown Ann Arbor:
- 1,500 volunteers prepare and serve more than 100,000 meals to people in need each year
- Students of the Job Training and Internship programs are chosen from at-risk youth (ages 17-24). They gain basic training in the culinary arts, and work to develop work ethics and life skills
Food Gatherers rescues food that would otherwise go to waste from more than 300 local sources including food retailers, restaurants, and food wholesalers. As members of both the Food Bank Council of Michigan and Feeding America, we are connected to statewide and national corporate and government food donations. Our Growing Initiatives are dramatically increasing the amount of local vegetables available to our partners:
- Food Gatherers Gathering Farm – located at our warehouse, yields vegetables most requested by our partners
- Faith and Food – a coordinated campaign to encourage congregations to start a garden and donate a portion of their harvest
- Plant a Row for the Hungry – encourages local gardeners to grow a little extra to donate to food banks.
- Huron Valley Women's Correctional Facility – their horticulture program provides tons of fresh produce
- Michigan Farm to Food Bank – we pay local farmers to grow tons of fruits and vegetables
We also purchase bulk food items! Then, there are people who donate to food drives or support our food program financially.
Connecting the dots between hunger and public health
Our neighbors living in poverty face a much higher likelihood of having high cholesterol, diabetes and other diet related ailments. Food Gatherers is focused on distributing not just more pounds of food but more nutritionally valuable food. In our last fiscal year, 55% of all food distributed was fresh fruits, vegetables or meat, eggs and other protein items! We even have a registered dietitian on staff empowering partner agencies and food assistance recipients to make healthier choices.
Established 1988 - Michigan’s first food rescue program
Food Gatherers is not only Michigan’s first food rescue program, but the first program of its kind to be founded by a for-profit business, Zingerman’s Delicatessen.
A few days before Thanksgiving in 1988, Food Gatherers volunteers borrowed a van and collected 50 pounds of vegetables, bread, milk and eggs from half a dozen grocery stores and restaurants. The food was quickly re-distributed to hot meal programs in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
Today, Food Gatherers is an independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization governed by a board of directors and operated by 24 staff people and more than 5,000 volunteers.
Sustainable Business Practices
The concept of food gatherers is simple good food should never go to waste as long as there are hungry people. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that at least one quarter of all food produced in the United States is wasted. Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, grains, and other highly perishable and nutritious foods account for up to two-thirds of the waste. By recovering even a fraction of this food, Food Gatherers helps to feed thousands of people in Washtenaw County with a local resource which otherwise would be wasted. In 2004, Food Gatherers distributed more than 2 million lbs. of rescued perishable and/or prepared food. Food Gatherers also recycles 4-5 cardboard bales per month at 700 lbs. each. In addition, damaged or old product is disposed of and packaging is recycled, (cardboard, cans, and glass). For example, volunteers recently emptied 48 cases of bad pineapple juice and recycled the empty cans. In addition, all of the empty food containers and cardboard at Food Gatherers Community Kitchen are recycled. Several environmentally sustainable features are also incorporated into the warehouse design. These include: additional insulation in the office area to decrease heating and cooling consumption, extra large windows in the warehouse area to provide additional daylight to supplement electrical lighting, siding set out from the wall to reduce the heat gain to the exterior walls, the cooler and freezer are placed inside the building, rather than outside, to reduce heat gain during the summer, the warehouse is heated with efficient radiant tube heaters, so the thermostat can remain turned down, and the warehouse is configured with a mechanical ventilation system to reduce summertime cooling costs. Bait traps are also used for pest control instead of chemical poisons and insect sprays are not used.