The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor and Food Gatherers are partnering for a fundraiser until March 18. to fight food insecurity in Washtenaw County.
The campaign created by The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor is to fund and host a food drive to provide food to children and families during the summer months when school is not in session and they lack access to free or reduced-price meals.
“Food Gatherers is a food bank and food rescue program that serves Washtenaw County,” Helen Starman, chief development officer of Food Gatherers, said. “We have over 170 partners and programs throughout the community that need children, adults, seniors and veterans.”
Donations of $25 or more will be matched by the Harold and Kay Peplau Family Fund up to $10,000.
“The Harold and Kay Peplau Fund was established multiple years ago when Harold and Kay Peplau were alive,” Starman said. “They were very concerned about food insecurity in the community. For many years they made generous donations to both the Food Gatherers and other food banks in southeast Michigan.They designated $10,000 from the fund as a matching gift for the Rotary Face Child Hunger Food Drive.”
All food and funds collected through the campaign will directly be donated to Food Gatherers and distributed to their partners and affiliated programs.
“Food Gatherers will distribute food to 170 non-profit partners and programs working to alleviate hunger in our community,” Todd Kephart, previous board member of the Rotary Club, said. “Examples of these partners include the Salvation Army, Dawn Farm, Ozone House, Peace Neighborhood Center, Perry Nursery School, Dexter Senior Center, SOS Community Services, the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, and Hope Clinic.”
Most-needed items include low or no-sodium, high-protein products such as beans, canned meats, and peanut butter; low or no-sodium hearty soups; canned fruit; baby food; and supplemental drinks such as formula and Ensure.
The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor works on both local and global projects. The food and fund campaign, an annual spring event, is the only one in Washtenaw County for food insecurity.
“We have been hosting this drive since 2006, always in the spring to fill Food Gatherers’ coffers as the end of the school year approaches and families face the end of school breakfast and lunch programs which disappear during the summer,” Kephart said. “In the first few years we were raising, in monetary and food item donations, the equivalent of 8-10,000 meals, but momentum has grown as the years progressed to the point where last year we funded 150,000 meals, which is also our goal this year.”
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been detrimental to food insecurity in Washtenaw County.
“In the first six months of the pandemic, child food insecurity in our community doubled; today, the rate is decreasing but remains 12% higher than before the pandemic,” Kephart said. “Food Gatherers has some great information on the immediate impact of COVID on food insecurity in the community; 40% of food pantry users had never needed one before.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor created a pandemic response fund to assist the community. The Pandemic Response Fund raised almost $62,000 with the help of the three subcommittees of The Disaster Response Team. The PPE/Healthcare/Frontline Worker Support identified needs in the community, Human Services developed a brief grant application for nonprofit organizations affected by COVID, and Fundraising organized the campaign and encouraged donors all in one month.
Food Gatherers encourages community members to donate non-perishable food items during the campaign. Donations can be made online at foodgatherers.org/rotary or by bringing food donations or checks to Food Gatherers at 1 Carrot Way in Ann Arbor. Warehouse hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 4:45 p.m.