TROY — In the current Michigan economy, it may not startle you to learn that 45% of the population in Detroit is classified as what the international community now calls “food insecure.” According to Monica Luoma of Forgotten Harvest, that means people who are hungry now, or who may be one paycheck away from hunger or who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.
But long before the state’s economy had sunk so low, Forgotten Harvest (FH) was formed to fight hunger and waste as well.
Forgotten Harvest is in the food rescue business, one of two in the state. It currently rescues over 8.5 million pounds of food per year by collecting surplus prepared and perishable food from a variety of sources, including grocery stores, fruit and vegetable markets, restaurants, caterers, dairies, farmers, wholesale food distributors, and other Health Department-approved sources.and delivering it free of charge to 135 emergency food providers in the metro Detroit area. This is on a 5-day-a-week basis. A fleet of 16 refrigerated trucks pick the food up and deliver the same day. The individuals and families served are as diverse as the community’s residents — young and old, from all races and faiths. The common bond uniting them with each other and with Forgotten Harvest is hunger.
In August 2006, the Associated Food & Petroleum Dealers (AFPD), whose membership in Michigan and Ohio is about 40% Arab and Chaldean, issued a challenge to all its member retailers and wholesalers in metro Detroit to help raise one million pounds of food for needy families in southeastern Michigan. They had a year to do it.
Last week, its mission was accomplished. By donating their surplus perishable and nonperishable food products to Forgotten Harvest, as part of the One Million Pound Challenge, AFPD members raised 1,125,992 lbs. of food, the cash-equivalent of $1.7 million donated.
“Our members have always given back to the community,” said Jane Shallal, AFPD president. “I knew they would exceed the expectations of this challenge. We weren’t disappointed.”
AFPD members in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties took part in the campaign and more than 50 percent of those who participated were first-time food donors to Forgotten Harvest.
“Through generous donations by AFPD members, we are able to provide support to a network of 135 emergency food providers throughout southeast Michigan,” said Luoma, who is director of communications and events for FH. “By donating, AFPD members save money on dumpsters, food storage costs and receive tax break incentives. Everyone wins.”
According to the USDA, one-quarter of the food produced in this country — nearly 96 billion pounds — is wasted each year. Last year, Forgotten Harvest rescued 8,589,815 pounds of food. Food that would have normally been thrown away instead went to hungry children, seniors and homeless families.
Although the One Million Pound Challenge has ended, the need continues.
“Forgotten Harvest is a wonderful resource for metro Detroit and we’re proud to partner with the organization on such a worthy cause,” Shallal said. “I can assure you that AFPD members will continue to do their part to rescue food for needy families.”
Forgotten Harvest board member Bruce Nyberg says the USDA reports that 25% of the available food in this country — that’s 96 billion pounds — goes to waste every year. Just 5% of that would alleviate hunger in the United States.
The Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers represents the food, beverage and petroleum industry. With membership nearing 3,900, AFPD has members throughout Michigan and Ohio which include supermarkets, liquor stores, drug stores, specialty markets, convenience stores, gas stations and service stations. As the “Voice of the Food, Beverage & Petroleum Industry,” the primary focus of AFPD has remained constant in the exchange of business ideas, fair legislative representation, financial benefits, educational opportunities and positive promotion of the food, beverage and petroleum industry. AFPD’s mission is to represent the industry and to assist retail members in increasing their current and future effectiveness and profitability by providing knowledge, solutions and connections needed by the industry, in addition to improving the image of the industry.