National Guard has been deployed to help support local Food Gatherers

By Laurie Wechter / WLAA

According to Food Gatherers President and CEO Eileen Spring, “The National Guard has been deployed to support our warehouse operations. We have 10 guardsmen working with us all day, Monday-Friday until May 1. We plan to resume our volunteer shifts, taking into account public health guidelines, as soon as possible.”

Food Gatherers and all food pantries remain open to distribute crucial food to the community during the Michigan’s #StayAtHome order. Spring emphasizes that, “Food Gatherers is an essential business and critical part of the community safety net.” She adds that because of the spread of the pandemic “our food distributions have changed from focusing on fresh produce and protein to boxed non-perishable items supplemented with dairy and produce if possible.”

The Delonis Center, which houses the Food Gatherers Community Kitchen, continues to serve meals but has switched to a “to go” model.

“We have canceled all volunteer shifts at our warehouse and are hosting a limited number of volunteers at our Community Kitchen in order to be compliant with the social distancing and stay-at-home order,” says Helen Starman, Food Gatherers Chief Development Officer.

Losing the help of volunteers has put the onus on an already over-extended staff. “Without our usual volunteer cohort, our warehouse and volunteer staff have been very busy sorting, packaging, and distributing food,” Spring says. “Having 10 full-time National Guard members is a tremendous help to the organization. We plan to resume our volunteer shifts, taking into account public health guidelines, as soon as possible.”

Starman reports that Food Gatherer’s partners are reporting increases in needed food, “ranging from 30 to 300 percent not only from beneficiaries already being served at the inception of the Stay at Home order.” She says they are “now seeing individuals and families newly impacted by unemployment – folks who have never used a pantry before.”

Food Gatherers was created as Michigan’s first food rescue by Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1988. It became an independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization in 1989. Food Gatherers is central to food rescue and food bank programs serving Washtenaw County. This life-saving organization partners with 170 agencies and programs providing direct food assistance to low-income adults, seniors and children in Washtenaw County.

Community Resources

FOOD: Anyone in need of food can visit HERE or call 734-761-2796 to find local food and meal distribution sites. Information and updates on SNAP benefits can be found HERE

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a new program: Pandemic EBT. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) program provides temporary funding to address emergency food needs for families affected by the #COVID19 pandemic.

P-EBT food assistance benefits will go to Michigan families with students ages 5-18 that are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. This includes families currently receiving Food Assistance Program benefits, as well as those not currently enrolled in the program. No application is necessary for eligible families to receive P-EBT benefits.

DONATE: Donations can be made online at or by calling 734-761-2796. Food donations are also being accepted. More information is available at

PPE and FOOD: Food Gatherers and Michigan Medicine are partnering on a donation drive for non-perishable food and PPE. Donations are currently accepted on weekdays and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. at Dock 90 of 2800 Plymouth Rd. at U-M’s North Campus Research Complex. Help spread the word!

VOLUNTEER: To volunteer, one must complete a volunteer registration on the website. Notification will come when shifts are available.

Phone: (734) 761-2796