By Rebecca Isaacson & Josh Musicant June 7, 2020
In late May, The Farmlink Project partnered with Food Rescue US – Detroit to help deliver 40,000 pounds of potatoes from a farm in Washington state and 1,430 boxes of fresh produce (equaling 35,750 pounds) from Pacific Produce to the people of Detroit.
Thanks to the help of local farms and packaging facilities, The Farmlink Project has been able to help facilitate surplus produce to places and communities in need. Farmers across the US have struggled to unload their produce as a result of declining demand in the food service industry. In order to help fill in gaps of food insecurity, both farmers and packaging facilities alike have stepped up to share the burden of helping to distribute their extra food. The Farmlink Project team is incredibly thankful for the generous work of both farmers and packaging facilities which directly benefits communities in need of assistance.
Food Rescue US, a technology-based platform, organizes and collects food donations from businesses with a surplus and distributes it to social service agencies that feed those in need. Food Rescue distributes to a vast range of agencies: churches, senior centers, agencies to help children and teen victims of human trafficking, organizations caring for victims of abuse, facilities helping those struggling with substance abuse, as well as homeless shelters. Many people in Detroit also recently became food insecure as a result of the pandemic who would not have otherwise associated with these agencies. Darraugh Collins, the Site Director at Food Rescue US – Detroit, hopes to help “broaden the scope of what it means to be food insecure,” particularly in light of the unprecedented crisis we are living in today.
While the pandemic’s impact on Food Rescue — Detroit has caused a significant decrease in donors, it has also unexpectedly yielded some positive results from the Detroit community and beyond. More people than ever have reached out to Food Rescue wanting to volunteer. The pandemic has also prompted organizations and businesses across the country to contribute large donations of food to Food Rescue — Detroit, which have helped to sustain Food Rescue during this time where the number of donors has reduced. These larger contributions include 64,000 burger patties from Beyond Meat, a plant-based meat company that has pledged to donate one million patties to food-insecure communities across the country, a 97,000-pound donation of cooked frozen chicken, and the 75,750 pounds of produce through Food Rescue’s partnership with The Farmlink Project.
Access to healthy food is a major source of racial inequality. As a predominantly black city, Detroit has been experiencing systemic issues of food security inequality since long before the pandemic hit. This lack of access to fresh, quality produce has contributed to many underlying health issues that make members of this community vulnerable to COVID-19. The Black Lives Matter movement has inspired more volunteers in Detroit to help combat the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 and food insecurity on black communities.
With so many people wanting the opportunity to get involved, Darraugh is pursuing an initiative to help businesses engage with their communities as well as allow their team members to reconnect with one another by inviting them to volunteer at Food Rescue Detroit’s food distributions every Friday at the TCF Center in Detroit, which are open for anyone to come and collect food for those who need it. “The responsibility to feed our community is something that belongs to all of us,” said Darraugh.
Those who have been stepping up to help Food Rescue have shown the amazing things that can happen when people just “say yes,” as Darraugh puts it. At last Friday’s distribution at the TCF Center, Food Rescue could not distribute the produce due to lack of sufficient transportation means—Food Rescue needed help to find an alternative to get the food where it needed to go. Their volunteers that day started contacting friends and filling up their cars to distribute the boxes of food. Darraugh reached out to one of the agencies partnered with Food Rescue asking if they could help as they own a big box truck. Despite the fact that this agency wasn’t even picking up produce for itself from Food Rescue that day, they helped distribute boxes of produce to the church and senior center that needed it. At the end of the day when there were still boxes of produce left that would have gone to waste, Spencer, the TCF Center forklift driver helping Food Rescue, offered to have the TCF employees take a box on their way home to put the produce to use. In just one day, the help of so many individuals made these deliveries possible—showing the difference we can make in our communities, our country, and our world when we just say yes.