Food And Drinks

Metro Detroit food banks in need of volunteers as food insecurity grows during COVID-19 pandemic


(WXYZ) – The holidays are a time of need every year, but the pandemic has left millions of Americans unsafe and they are turning to food banks to help fill that void.

But how are food banks dealing with the increased demand just a week before Thanksgiving? You work hard to rise to the challenge.

The long lines at food banks around the country made headlines early in the pandemic, but they haven’t all gone.

“It’s like lines that are about two miles long and this becomes a weekly event,” said Kirk Mayes, CEO of Forgotten Harvest.

Mayes added that the economy and labor market have never fully recovered and workers laid off in the spring are still turning to food banks.

As demand increases, Forgotten Harvest brings more food to hand out, but keeping up with demand is a challenge.

Mayes said the pandemic is making it harder to recruit the volunteers they rely on to package, sort and move millions of pounds of food as businesses stuck in large groups.

“We’re really trying to keep our volunteer efforts going on the type of individual volunteer, family who want to come in to help,” he said.

This year, more Forgotten Harvest groceries will come from the federal government through the CARES act. According to Mayes, 2020 has brought instability to so many subway families in Detroit and requires flexibility for organizations like Forgotten Harvest.

“Everything is a daily, weekly, monthly review opportunity for a change that last year had at least some things we could count on and we would stay stable, we could plan,” he said.

The Macomb Food Program in Macomb County is also adapting to the challenges of this holiday season. The demand has been high since March and they are preparing for the need to grow during the holidays.

“This year we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of our customers,” said Shannon Mallory. “Last year it was around 170,000, we’re already at 240,000.”

And the growth comes from communities that have traditionally been economically stable and where previously there was little demand for food banks. This includes northern Macomb County and other areas like Sterling Heights.

“The face of food insecurity is your neighbor. It is your friend, a co-worker,” added Mallory.

With the new COVID-19 restrictions, formwork ledges, and more, the need is likely to remain.

Both Forgotten Harvest and the Macomb Food Program are looking for volunteers to help sort, pack, and move food. When you have the time, it’s a way to give back.

Volunteers wear masks, are socially distant and the organizations disinfect to keep everyone safe.

Additional coronavirus information and resources:

Click for a page of resources including a CDC COVID-19 overview, details of Michigan cases, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s orders since the outbreak, the impact of the coronavirus on southeast Michigan, and links for more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC, and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

You can find full coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we help people financially affected by the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything that is available to help you with this crisis and how to access it.


Dusty Kennedy