Bringing food and hope to southeast Michigan

Hunger is probably one of the hardest and most complicated issues every nation has to face and Yosef Meystel knows that the United States is not an exception to this rule. At least 15% of American affirm that their households are food insecure. This means that millions of Americans are affected every year. This may be hard to believe since the United States is one of the biggest food producers in the world. However, the lack of food is explained thanks to the high rates of poverty that can be found in some of the largest cities in America.

In the Midwestern cities, hunger is also a big issue. Rates are pretty similar to those experiences in the rest of the country where 1 in 6 people faces hunger and almost 40% of the produces food is thrown away because people don’t have the financial capacity to consume it.

Different institutions have been founded in the United States to fight hunger. Some of these institutions aim to create awareness and have opened nutrition programs for vulnerable populations. In Detroit, there is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting hunger in the Midwest. This organization is called Gleaners Community Food Bank (GCFB) and its main goal is to provide households with access to enough and nutritious food.

Finding so many foods insecure households has inspired GCFB to fight poverty and change the numbers around it. The organization wants every child to have access to enough food every day. Also, GCFB aims to reduce the amount of food which is thrown away every day and give it to those who can’t afford it.

Related: Detroit Impact Center

Working Hard to Feed the Community

For over 40 years Gleaners Community Food Bank has served different counties in Southeast Michigan. Headquartered in Detroit, GCFB distributes more than 41 million pounds of food every year, helping over 550 food pantries, soup kitchens, senior homes, homeless shelters, and other nonprofits. Every year thousands of children and seniors are fed thanks to GCFB contributions and have access to three meals each day.

For each dollar donated to Gleaners food, a person receives three meals. More than that, 59% of the individuals fed by Gleaners’ programs are seniors and children. The final hope is to end hunger in every neighbor of Michigan and the tools to do so come from different organizations that help the institution being efficient.

Thanks to the collaboration of volunteer and donors, GCFB is able to provide innovative solutions each day to achieve a hunger-free community. The current target of the organization is located in southeast Michigan, however, the primary goal is to eradicate hunger in the entire country through the Feeding America program and other national institutions.


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How it all started

In 1959, Gene Gonya, a farmer boy from Ohio decided to join the Jesuit Religious Community and was introduced to a motto that would change his life “doing all for the greater honor and glory of God”. This is how, almost two decades later, he left the Jewish Community and dedicated his life to community service linked to the Catholic Church and the co-founded Gleaners Community Food Bank.

At first, the organization was settled in a warehouse on Detroit’s east side and its main mission was to distribute food to the agencies in charge of delivering it to hunger individuals in the community. At first, the organization was dedicated to soliciting and collecting surplus food, later it could accept donations from truckload and farms. Each donation was safely stored and then distributed to organizations. As the stored quantities grew, the nonprofits dedicated to distributing the food to the poorest were not able to accept such large amounts of it. This was the moment when Gleaners became not only a food bank but also a food provider for the community in southeast Michigan.

Thanks to the exemplary work of GCFB, other organizations were founded. One of these organizations was also founded by Gene and was called Second Harvest, what would later become part of Feeding America. An unstoppable Gene would also help to found the Food Bank of Michigan.

Thanks to Gene’s vision and management skills, numerous food banks started to operate in the Midwest and many agencies were created to serve those in need. Besides, Gene’s endless energy and love for the cause led him to become a counselor for different institutions fighting to eradicate hunger in the United States.

How GCFB Operates

The regular process of the organization includes four crucial steps listed below.

  1. Donations: This first step consists in collecting the donations from groceries, retailers, food drivers, local gardens and manufacturers, and other sources.
  2. Collect and Sort: After receiving the donations, these are sorted by Gleaners volunteer staff so it can be later distributed.
  3. Distribute: The collected food is distributed to over 550 partners, including soup kitchens, homeless shelters, senior homes, and food pantries in five southeast Michigan counties.
  4. Nourish: Gleaner’s partner agencies also help nourish the community by distributing food to neighbors who need it.