Food distribution partnership with Gleaners is a lifeline for families in our community

January 3rd, 2022
Food distribution event in partnership with Gleaners at our St. Anthony’s building

After receiving food for her family and her sisters at one of our weekly food distribution events, Sylvia pulled her car off to the side. She rolled down her window and took a deep breath, while dabbing her tears. Tears of gratitude.

“I am just so thankful for the help for our family and for all the other families who came today,” Sylvia said.

Sylvia works in maintenance for Detroit Public Schools and her hours were reduced because of remote learning due to the Covid crisis.

“I’m not used to asking for help, but we really need it at this time,” Sylvia said.

Sylvia is one of the more than 25,000 families who have received free groceries through our food distribution with Gleaners Community Food Bank. The partnership began at the end of March 2020 with distributions from our St. Anthony’s building every two weeks. We then arranged distributions, again in partnership with Gleaners, from New Paradigm Academy, which is less than half-a-mile from our 5716 Michigan building.  Our food distributions alternate weekly between St. Anthony’s and New Paradigm. Through the end of last year, we have held 80 food distribution events between the two sites in southwest Detroit. We are committed to offering this valuable community service at least through the end of June 2022. A bilingual flyer listing our distribution dates in the first three months of 2022 is available.

Food distribution event in partnership with Gleaners at New Paradigm Academy

Even before the pandemic, hunger was a significant and heartbreaking issue in our community, with about half of the families experiencing food insecurity. The pandemic and its economic fallout exacerbated this already prevalent problem.

Whom do we serve at the food distribution events? Low-income families who need the food to supplement the assistance they receive. People who have lost their jobs. People on fixed income, including seniors and those with disabilities. People not eligible for government assistance for various reasons. The food distribution has become essential for these households to alleviate hunger.

Bruce and Paul drive together regularly to our free food distribution events. They are usually the first or second car in line each time. They are both retired, and both have kids and grandchildren living at their homes in southwest Detroit.

“I’ve had trouble paying all the bills during the pandemic,” Bruce said. “If not for the weekly food distributions we’ve been coming to, there’d be a few days where the adults would have to eat a single meal to make sure that the children still got all the food they needed.”

Families coming to the distribution receive at least 30 pounds of food, including fruit and vegetables, milk, meat, grains, canned goods, pasta, and other shelf-stable items. Safety protocols are observed, and the groceries are placed in the truck of the car driving through the event. Drivers are allowed to pick up food for other families in need that they know. The process is simple and respectful. We have trusting and compassionate understanding that people do not take advantage of the opportunity.

After picking up food for her family and for her parent’s household at St. Anthony’s last month, Lupe wrote a thank you note on our Facebook page.

Lupe with her grandbaby (from Lupe’s Facebook page, used with her permission)

“This was a great help,” she wrote. “Thank you to everyone who helped make this event possible and those who were out there in this cold weather passing out everything. God Bless.”

Lupe has seven children and a grandbaby living with her. Her oldest kids had to move back in with her because of jobs lost due to the pandemic and the rising cost of basic needs. They are starting to work again, but with reduced hours.

“We are short on cash, and the food distribution helps us make ends meet,” Lupe said.

With the holiday expenses and winter arriving, families are pressed even more financially. The cost of food, utilities and rent are all going up, and we are once again seeing an increase in the number of families coming to our food distributions, after the numbers had begun to level off following increased government financial assistance to families (CARES Act) and then the gradual re-opening of the economy. With inflation and ongoing uncertainties about the pandemic, our food distribution events have added importance in making sure that children and families in our community do not go hungry.

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