Over the last 30 years, Forgotten Harvest has helped combat hunger for people across the city of Detroit. Since its inception, the non-profit organization has set out to provide fresh and healthy food options while also finding solutions for and fighting against barriers to access food and proper waste management. Now, it is expanding into a new space to help support more metro Detroiters and provide greater assistance to the community it serves.
Housed in Oak Park, Forgotten Harvest celebrated 30 years of service during the height of the pandemic last year. Despite the health crisis, Forgotten Harvest continues to provide roughly 138,000 pounds of food each day to its partners who help to distribute it to families in need across Detroit and its surrounding cities.
“We want to make sure it gets served at a high level and with the kind of respect that comes with us loving on our community and serving our people and our families,” says Kirk Mayes, CEO of Forgotten Harvest.
Moving to a bigger space, the food center will be in a new 77,000-square-foot distribution facility, volunteer center and headquarters. Still housed in Oak Park, the new Forgotten Harvest facility will provide more emergency food resources and a better–balanced variety of food options to the community. The organization will also be able to improve daily operations by consolidating from three sites into one.
“This transformational initiative will enable Forgotten Harvest to improve the nutritional mix of food by 300 percent and increase our capacity to rescue and distribute 50 million pounds to 90 million pounds of emergency food,” says Mayes. “The project will create better health and quality of life annually in outcomes for the 400,000 plus children, families and seniors we serve throughout southeastern Michigan, helping those who reside in urban areas such as the City of Detroit and Pontiac, as well as many suburban and rural communities”.
The new center will include adequate space for proper social distancing of volunteers and a larger storage space for food distribution. Now in the public phase of the Solutions That Nourish Campaign, the organization is gearing up to unveil the facility which is set to open its doors in spring 2022.
“We are thrilled to be heading into the public phase of our Solutions That Nourish Campaign,” says Mayes. “This has been several years in the making and we are looking forward to enhancing our business model to provide more resources and a more balanced and equitable nutritional mix of food to the communities we serve.”
Thanks to an anonymous $3 million dollar challenge gift, the campaign debuted its leadership phase in 2019 and has since been able to secure critical gifts to begin the campaign. The Campaign has raised more than $12 million of its $17 million dollar goal with plans of hitting the mark before the public opening of the facility.
“The new Forgotten Harvest campus will be our distribution center of the future,” says Forgotten Harvest Board Chair Rick DiBartolomeo. “Our continued vision and mission of creating a food security network for metro Detroit’s hungry will happen right here. Many thanks to all those that have contributed so far to the success of this transformational initiative.”
Although the pandemic has greatly affected day-to-day life, business and finances, it has also help bring attention to food shortages and insecurities. Feeding America reports 42 million people across the country will face hunger because of the pandemic. With organizations like Forgotten Harvest, the hunger epidemic for families across the city is diminishing.
“We want to make sure we can get as much food out, but it is also as equitable a distribution of food in different categories so that people can have as many meals as possible with the food that we are sending out to the communities,” says Mayes.
Forgotten Harvest broke ground on the new location in November 2020. The campus is on 10 acres and the distribution facility will have 15 truck bays, refrigerated and freezer food storage, food processing and repack areas, administrative offices, ample parking for a fleet of 36 large trucks and parking spaces for 200 volunteers and staff.