Detroit-Area Food Distribution During Global Pandemic

Hunger is a huge problem.

Individuals, businesses, churches and charities in Greater Detroit are doing their best to help stave off hunger.

I began documenting Metro food distribution in October of 2020; as the months pass, the need is certainly accelerating.

Detroit’s Afro American Mission on Clay Street sits quietly between two of the last frame homes in the area …

… in the shadow of the Murray Body Plant, initially the supplier of all Chrysler body production.

Saturday was the day to put out clothing and boxes of food from a local food bank.

Times change. Here, a collection of marooned Lime battery scooters await use in a depopulated community. In the background, west on Clay Street at Oakland, is the boarded-up Charlie the Pencilman’s store, famed for its office supplies and bookie services. This is one of the last remaining commercial buildings that were erected around 1930 by a large Eastern European/Russian Jewish community.

I visited the Lighthouse Outreach Center on Gratiot Avenue in Roseville. The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministry runs the program.  Historically, between 2,200 and 2,300 customers a month were served. The pandemic has cut attendance to about 1,800 people a month. People feared going out even for free food. Slowly demand was increasing.

A very gracious 40-year-old administrator, Bruce Calderwood, manages employees and volunteers who handle a wide volume of fresh and frozen food in a busy cloistered atmosphere …

… where even recycling Post-Its is practical.

Food distribution continues to fill a growing need in Royal Oak. On a cold Saturday, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church distributes food from Gleaners Community Food Bank to 90 – 100 people a month.

Royal Oak First United Methodist Church supplies 20 to 40 people  with bag lunches, Monday through Friday, from 10:30am to 11:30am.

“This program has worked successfully for at least 20 or 30 years. Friday is our biggest day, and we often get a donation from the local KFC Store,” noted Karen Calhoun, who manages the street distribution services.

At Redford Interfaith Relief on Detroit’s west side, Susan Pherson was outside coordinating delivery of food to clients in cars. The pandemic has reduced indoor interaction.

RIR represents multiple local churches in an excellent effort to house and distribute clothing and much-needed food to a very senior community population.

A most ambitious and well-coordinated monthly distribution took place at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit. This event sponsored a Covid-19 test site

while providing free food to between 100 and 200 drive-thru cars in a single day.

Church member volunteers working on the tarmac handled several tons of food.

 In December 2020 I photographed a turkey giveaway in Detroit at the corner of John R St. and State Fair St. during a snow squall.

The sponsors were Jordanians with local business ties. The Detroit Police Department managed traffic. Cars were lined up 30 deep.

This area was historically one of the first Middle Eastern settlements in Detroit, located North of the Ford Highland Park Plant.

“We have 250 free turkeys”, a woman declared. A respected older man gently corrected her: “We have 252 turkeys from Eastern Market.”

“Just toss the turkey through the window onto the back seat,” one driver called out.

The demand for quality food keeps growing as the pandemic drags on and on. Major non-profits like Gleaners Community Food Bank, which distributes to outlet locations, and Forgotten Harvest, which delivers over 130,000 pounds of surplus food weekly, comprise large distribution networks. They are well run and nationally respected, They rely on volunteers managed by paid local staff.”

Even non-profits need money to run smoothly. Please consider donating to your favorite food bank or community support service during this crisis. Thank you.


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5 thoughts on “Detroit-Area Food Distribution During Global Pandemic

  1. Always interesting David😎

  2. Good work David

  3. Thank you very much for all you do to keep us informed.
    Bless you.

  4. This shows: 1) a desperate need for food, which should not happen in the “richest country”. 2). The astonishing cooperation between donors and the food sites 3). The variety of the donors 4) and the uniformity of the pick-up sites…churches, where are the city structures which should help with this, 4) the commitment and number of volunteers, 5) you documenting all of this and your explanations. Well done and thank you.

  5. Incredibly inspirational and educational! At a time in our countries battling this Pandemic,Hate,Crime,Racism,and Political upheaval, the Heart of our Love for one another is still “Beating”! To see the coming together of a community of different backgrounds and ethnicity,bound together to ensure “No One Gets Left Behind”, is the Light that will not be extinguished in all the Darkness that that seems to take Center Stage in our Media!!! GREAT STORY,David!!! “A Light that thrives in the depths of Darkness,Blazes through Murky Bottoms.It Cannot and Will Not be Quenched!”The Gospel of John 1:5.

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