Food Gatherers, an Ann Arbor-based food bank and food rescue program, canceled their yearly in-person event and launched a fundraiser in its place.
For over 25 years, Food Gatherers hosted Grillin’, an in-person fundraiser and picnic, to raise awareness for food insecurity in the community. The event was Food Gatherers’ largest and attracted more than 1,400 attendees to the Washtenaw County Fairgrounds. It has been canceled for the second year in a row.
Helen Starman, the chief development officer of Food Gatherers, said the event was canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Grillin’ provided a way for the organization to connect with the local community and raise awareness about food insecurity.
“[Grillin’] is an annual event that brings the community together and supports food insecurity in our community,” Starman said. “It’s a celebration of our work throughout the year and the high number of volunteers...and all of the community businesses that support us as well.”
In place of the canceled event, a matching campaign was launched to raise money for the fight against hunger. The Harold and Kay Peplau Family Fund is matching donations up to $35,000.
Starman emphasized the organization’s appreciation for the local business that are Grillin’ sponsors this year, including several restaurants and grocery stores.
“We’re very grateful to the local businesses that even in this challenging year have chosen to support Food Gatherers, even without the benefits of sponsoring an event,” Starman said.
While plans for the return of in-person fundraisers are on halt, Starman said the organization is hopeful about the possibility of their holiday event, Rockin’ for the Hungry, returning this year and Grillin’ returning in 2022.
Food Gatherers’ impact on Washtenaw County extends to EMU’s campus. Swoop’s Food Pantry, a resource for students to receive food and other essentials, is partnered with the organization. Heidi Bechtel, a graduate assistant at Swoop’s, said about 50% of the food on Swoop’s shelves is from Food Gatherers.
“We really would be about half the size without [Food Gatherers],” Bechtel said. “We would have a lot less to offer, and we would have to spend a lot more of our administrative hours on getting grants and stuff like that.”
Through community partners like Food Gatherers, Swoop’s is able to help more students during the COVID-19 crisis. Bechtel encouraged EMU students to take advantage of Swoop’s resources whether they are in immediate need or not.
“You don’t have to be stereotypically in need or poor or very low income...to access it,” Bechtel said. “It’s just a resource that anybody can access. It’s completely open, and college is super expensive...We want people to take advantage of the resource.”
For more information about Food Gatherers and donating to the fundraiser, visit their website. For more information about Swoop’s Food Pantry and how to shop there, visit their website or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.