Hunger has a name and an address

Seven-year-old Alex stood in the long line waiting for food at the shelter in a Detroit suburb. While he stood there a worker started a conversation and asked him what he wished for in the coming year. His answer will break your heart. “I want a birthday cake with my name on it. Last year I got one that said ‘Happy Birthday, Michelle.’”

Alex isn’t the real name of the young boy who just wanted his own cake. I changed it because his family didn’t want it made public. Still, the story is true and it is just one of the many stories of hunger in the Detroit region.

The worker let Forgotten Harvest know about Alex’s heart’s desire and this year he got a cake that said “Happy Birthday, Alex.”

Forgotten Harvest rescues surplus food from grocery stores, farms, warehouses, distributors, dairies, restaurants, caterers and entertainment venues and delivers it to those in need. Sometimes it can also make a child’s simple wish come true and provide the food he needs to avoid going hungry.

That’s just one story.

A short time ago Keith and Elizabeth had solid careers and a good size house in an affluent Detroit suburb. They came back to Michigan after a four-year stint in the Army to raise their kids in a neighborhood and school district they loved. Then, all of a sudden, they both lost their jobs. Keith was able to land a job doing the midnight shift at a local gas station but it’s not enough to pay the bills and put food on the table. Forgotten Harvest helps by providing food.

After working hard all their lives Diana and her husband Bill found themselves struggling to pay their bills and buy food. She was a marketing manager and teacher at a local college and he owned his own business. They’d lived conservatively, educated their children and were ready for retirement. Then they lost just about all their retirement savings when the economy collapsed. The money needed to pay the medical bills for his chronic condition and support her mother who suffers from chronic dementia simply wasn’t there. Food from Forgotten Harvest helps fill the gap.

For each of these people hunger has a name and an address. That address isn’t always a rundown home in the inner city. Even if you live in an affluent suburb that person could be your neighbor or your neighbors. You could be one house number away from someone who is facing hunger.

The need is great. Forgotten Harvest delivers 19.4 million meals annually and 75,000 pounds of food daily.

Unfortunately and scarily, the need is growing and growing. Look at these statistics:

  • 1 in 5 people in the tri-county area face hunger
  • 1 in 4 will face hunger by 2013 in the tri-county area
  • 1 in 2 children face hunger in the City of Detroit
  • 21.6% of Michigan residents are underemployed
  • 34.7% of Wayne Country children live in poverty
  • Food recipients have grown by 78% in four years
  • 41% of Forgotten Harvests’ clients make a choice between paying for food or bills

Hunger is, indeed, knocking at the door of many.

Something can be done. We waste 96 billion pounds of food every year in the US. Food accounts for 12% of all landfill waste. How does that track here? One billion pounds of food is wasted annually in metro Detroit. All that can be donated to Forgotten Harvest and distributed to people in need.

For full disclosure I should let you know I am on the board of directors for Forgotten Harvest. It does great work providing food for groups providing food in our region including Focus: HOPE, Gleaners, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Mariners Inn and many others.

What can you do? Sure you can write a check, which I know is greatly appreciated, but you can volunteer as well. Forgotten Harvest is one place. You can go to their website and sign up.

There are many other groups that need you, too. Check out this list at Volunteer Match.

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One comment on “Hunger has a name and an address

  1. Awesome article Marge….god bless you for all of your hard work for the people of Detroit…I am honored tom call you a friend….Happy Holidays.

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