Gleaners Harvest WINTER/SPRING 2020

Our Mission

We exist to provide households with access to sufficient, nutritious food, and related resources.

We accomplish this through collaboration, efficient operations, education, and innovative solutions to achieve a hunger-free community in southeast Michigan.

We believe hunger can be solved

We believe people are worth investing in

We believe “child” and “hunger” are two words that should never go together

We believe everyone benefits from a hunger-free community

We believe real change takes courage

We believe complex problems take collaborative solutions

We believe in the dignity of every person in the community

We believe good data enables better decisions

Our Strategic Priorities

Our vision is to end hunger in southeast Michigan. Gleaners is committed to the following strategic priorities in order to make this vision a reality.

Look for these icons throughout this edition for examples of our priorities in action.

2019 Food Bank of the Year

Feeding America recognized Gleaners for our adaptive leadership, strategically and innovatively driven decision making and collaborative partnerships—all of which you can read more about in the pages ahead.

Our work, along with this recognition, would not be possible without the support of each volunteer, team member, partner and donor. We are inspired by your passion to help end hunger in your community.

Thank you for making this a year of collaborative partnerships and collective achievements at Gleaners!

Letter from the President & Board Chair

There are two words that should never go together: child and hunger.

Your support in the last year made it possible for Gleaners to significantly add to our programs that improve food security for families in southeast Michigan. Even more, we are doing so in ways that create permanent, systematic improvements to food programs in schools so that children can reach their highest potential.

As you take a moment to read this edition, we hope you share our pride in our accomplishments. We have seen another substantial increase in food distribution this year, driven by both opportunity and need. We have also added significantly to our body of knowledge about hunger with notable understandings around the long-term impact of providing food security to patients and school-age children.

We were named Feeding America’s “Food Bank of the Year” in recognition of our innovative and effective food security solutions for households in our community — solutions which prioritized meeting people where they are, fostering innovation, partnering for greater impact, optimizing our people power, and scaling up solutions that work.

We have also prioritized engaging our clients so that they can give meaningful input and feedback about the programs that they use. This has resulted in important changes to the variety and quantity of foods available, providing extended hours of service for working families, and reducing waste.

It has been quite a year for Gleaners! And it wouldn’t be possible without you. Thank you so much!

It is 4:00 p.m. on a Thursday. While most of the workforce is wrapping up their day, the staff and volunteers at Gleaners’ Shared Harvest Pantry in Livingston County are just getting started. They are rolling out carts of lettuce, milk, and eggs. Boxes of squash and bananas are being arranged between aisles. Refrigerator cases are lined with fresh tomatoes, bags of carrots and grapes, pre-cut cabbage and fresh herbs. If a passerby were to look in the window, they might mistake the emergency food pantry for a produce market.

“Fresh Market Pantry is my absolute favorite thing we have done here,” said Roni Lundy, Livingston Operations Manager. Roni and her team helped start this new initiative, which is hosted inside Shared Harvest Pantry, in September 2019.

The impetus behind the project is to get more healthy food into the hands of people who need it most: children and struggling families. The Fresh Market Pantry is open to anyone in need of food assistance, and runs every Thursday from 5:00-7:00 p.m. “Having immediate access to fresh produce, during a time that works for their schedule, is changing lives,” said Roni.

“People love the food. They are telling me they feel better. I had one guest tell me that her husband reported lower blood sugar.”

Before the doors opened at 5:00 p.m., there was a line of ten people at the door. Clients entered, grabbed a basket, and began to shop. A couple picked out fresh fruit for their six-year-old son who is diabetic. A single father grabbed a bunch of bananas and eggs for his two young children at home. Alecia Gleason, a single mother of three, walked the aisles with her two children, Abby and Nathan. “I feel healthy again,” said Alecia. “I have to stretch my budget every day. If we have healthy food in the house, it goes to the kids. With this market, now I get to eat healthy too.”

“The support we get here means I won’t run out of gas, and that we have other necessities.” –Alecia Gleason

Alecia and one of her children struggle with severe ADHD. Diets rich in protein and vitamins help control symptoms, but only if you avoid sugar, artificial flavors, and other common allergens present in processed food. Alecia described the Fresh Market as ‘a godsend’ that has helped her get through the hardest weeks. “It’s just so amazing. The support we get here means I won’t run out of gas, and that we have other necessities.”

Gleaners’ commitment to providing access to healthy food continued in 2019, with more than 16 million pounds of fresh produce distributed throughout southeast Michigan. Fresh food comes from a range of food donors, as well as through partnerships with local farmers and food producers. The Fresh Market Pantry model helps ensure that these healthy perishable foods make it to families with growing children. “This pilot really helps us understand the food gap,” said Bridget Brown, Director of Food Secure Livingston. “Now our families have a way to get fresh food in the moment, right when they need it.” A typical emergency food pantry has set daytime hours and may require guests to schedule appointments ahead of time. The existing model may not reach working families that need after-hours, weekly access right in their time of need.

Gleaners’ pantry in Livingston reaches an average of 40-50 families a day during its six to ten hours of operations. The Fresh Market Pantry pilot serves an average of 60-80 families with fresh produce and dairy within a two-hour window. Learnings from the pilot are being implemented in several new Fresh Market Pantry initiatives launching at Gleaners’ partner agencies in spring 2020.

The pilot program and ongoing initiatives focused on providing fresh produce and dairy will help Gleaners launch a 1,000-2,000 square-foot dedicated Fresh Market Pantry. The pantry concept would be open six days a week with hours into the evening, offering convenient weekly access to nutritious food for people in need.

Fresh Market Pantry is made possible with support of the county, health systems, nonprofit pantries and shelters and local supporters like you.

“This has been life-changing. It’s saved me from running out of money at the end of the month. The milk alone is worth coming in—and we are able to get much more healthy food.” –Susan Benes

Our Strategic Priorities At Work with Fresh Market Pantry

Meet People Where They Are: By offering drop-in evening-hour access to fresh produce, Gleaners is increasing our distribution of highly nutritious food to more people in need.

Scale Up Solutions That Work: After the success of the Fresh Market Pantry pilot in Livingston, the model is being implemented in three of Gleaners’ partner agencies and counting.

How You Can Help

Volunteer at the Fresh Market Pantry.

Donate and support this new initiative and others like it.

Learn more about our Fresh Market Pantry initiative.

“I see Link2Feed helping Gleaners better understand where people need the most help.” -Vickie Figueroa

On Christmas Eve last year, Wanda Halton heard that her niece and her three children were evicted from their house because they were short on funds. The following day, as Wanda hosted a family holiday gathering, she welcomed her niece and kids for an extended stay. “That makes 10 people at my house,” Wanda said. “A few of my kids had to come back home. They have nowhere else to go, and that’s what family is for.” Wanda was the first in line at St. Christine Food Pantry, a Gleaners’ partner agency in Detroit, before doors opened on an early January afternoon. With more of her family in need, Wanda is returning to the pantry she visited as a young mother, nearly ten years ago. The pantry has evolved since then, and so has the reception process.

Wanda used her client service card to check in using Link2Feed, a new initiative made possible through a partnership between Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest. The initiative helps partner agencies more efficiently and effectively serve guests. During the visit, Wanda was greeted by Vickie Figueroa, a trained Link2Feed volunteer, who quickly checked her in and noted the changes to her household. “I have been part of 10-12 pantry distribution events so far,” said Figueroa. “I volunteer because I am tech savvy. But I also like to get in front of the data and work directly with the guests. It humanizes the problem of food insecurity for me.” As a previous TV20 Detroit employee, Figueroa said she understands that data and reporting can provide invaluable insights. “I see Link2Feed helping Gleaners better understand where people need the most help. My interest is in gentrified areas—areas where people are experiencing a high increase in cost of living.”

Link2Feed is cloud-based software made specifically for food banks and their partner agencies. In 2015, Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest embarked on a partnership to help food pantries throughout the region utilize this tool in order to provide the best service possible. “With Link2Feed, our partners gain a better understanding of their guests—from the types of food they need to be healthy to what language they speak at home,” said Denise Leduc, Director of Community Engagement at Gleaners.

“Gleaners is dedicated to maintaining the privacy of individuals accessing the food security network. Link2Feed is focused on user confidentiality, and Information is reported only in the aggregate, never on an individual basis.”

Today, more than 180 agencies in southeast Michigan are using Link2Feed, and five to ten new agencies are joining every month. Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest actively host training sessions, where agencies that are new to Link2Feed hear from their peers who are actively using the system.

How data helps us deliver more efficient and effective services to our community

Oakland HOPE in Pontiac Offers Healthy Options: Through Link2Feed data, Oakland HOPE learned that 42 percent of households in their program identified hypertension as a dietary consideration. Gleaners helped provide nutrition education and fresh produce to promote healthy eating.

Twelfth Street Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit Focuses on Guest Experience: The Church’s emergency food pantry serves an average of 300 guests every other Friday. The staff reports that Link2Feed client service cards dramatically reduce the time it takes to check in each guest and eliminates paperwork processing for volunteers. The online system means less wait time for guests and allows the staff and volunteers to focus on providing nutritious food to people in need.

Gibraltar Food Pantry in Gibraltar Creates Efficiencies: Gibraltar uses Link2Feed data to anticipate the needs of their guests and ensure nutritious emergency food is available each service day. Link2Feed reports show household sizes, ages, and health considerations of their guests, allowing the pantry to provide the right food in the right quantities.

“Link2Feed is helping us better understand hunger at every level.” -Denise Leduc

Looking at 12 months of data for the agencies enrolled, Gleaners can begin to gain insights about the 85,000 participating guests from 42,000 households. 27 percent of people served are children under 18 and 14 percent are seniors over age 65. Hypertension and diabetes were the top dietary considerations identified. While 26 percent of individuals served live alone, some household sizes ranged up to 14. Spanish and Arabic are the two most common languages spoken after English. Individuals visited a participating pantry an average of once every three months, and 39 percent of guests visited a pantry only one time in the past year.

The data also allows Gleaners to see how far people are traveling in order to access emergency food. In some cases, groups of people in need are traveling more than 30 miles. “With this new knowledge we can begin to uncover geographic areas and communities that are being underserved or need new types of services,” said Leduc. “Link2Feed is helping us better understand hunger at every level.”

Our Strategic Priorities At Work Through Data Collection

Foster Innovation: With our network of partner agencies utilizing the Link2Feed system, we can better understand the communities we serve and drive more efficient and effective programming.

How you can help

Harvest are focused on launching Link2Feed with more partner agencies in more geographic regions and we need your help! If you are looking for a hands-on opportunity to work with people we serve and enjoy learning new technology, sign up as a Link2Feed volunteer.

Donate and support this new initiative and others like it.

Learn more about Link2Feed.

As the dismissal bell rang at Pearl Lean Elementary School in Warren, 22 students stayed behind for a new after-school program focused on nutrition: Gleaners’ Best Food Forward Club. A student named Tomari sat at a table with two of his fellow third grade classmates and enjoyed a carton of fresh milk before the club began. “My mom wanted me to join,” he announced. “She wants me to learn how to cook at home.” Tomari and his tablemates chatted about their favorite foods and who they cook with at home. Tomari’s stepfather is the cook in his household, yet the family often eats out. By joining Best Food Forward Club, Tomari embarked on a 16-week after-school program that offers the tools to make healthy choices at school and at home and allows Tomari’s voice to be heard in the broader conversations that directly affect his education around and relationship with food.

Gleaners’ Best Food Forward Club is part of a larger pilot program, running across five schools in the Warren Consolidated School District. The Best Food Forward initiative, introduced in the last edition of Harvest, works with community partners to integrate programming into the lives of children and their families—from breakfast to bedtime. Each grade within the school receives programming tailored to the needs of its students and parents. At Pearl Lean, the response to the Best Food Forward pilot has been overwhelming. More than 1,000 people have participated in the on-site School Food Mobile pantries that provide the school’s families with nutritious food, and each after-school program has between 18-29 student signups. “The aim of the pilot is to provide kids and parents with the opportunity to learn and experience what it means to be healthy. I want this to become second nature to them,” said Kerry Keener, Principal at Pearl Lean. “We also want parents to feel that it’s okay to reach out to get support and help accessing healthy food.”

The pilot program at Pearl Lean will inform the immediate future of the 10-year plan for the Best Food Forward initiative. This focuses on the Warren Consolidated School District in Warren (guided by Gleaners) and the Westwood Heights School District in Flint (guided by the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan). The goal is to get families across these two Michigan school districts to full food security by embracing the “whole child” educational approach to nourish children physically, mentally, and academically at home, at school, and in the community. This is only possible through a variety of community partnerships and the willingness of schools and their families to get involved.

New programming that launched in January 2020 focuses on gathering direct feedback from students, families and the greater community. “Parents are the ones who see how kids eat outside of school,” said Addie Stone-Richards, Parent and Community Outreach consultant for Gleaners. Stone-Richards is directing a new Parent Advisory Committee, which invited 335 parents across the districts to provide feedback on the programming and help Gleaners “dream up new ways to improve access to healthy food and nutrition education inside and outside the house.”

Gleaners has engaged Wayne State University to help evaluate the success of Best Food Forward, including positive short-term and long-term outcomes regarding academic achievement, health, behavior and stability. Dr. Rachael Dombrowski, Assistant Professor at Wayne State University College of Education, and her team will follow 200 families within Warren Consolidated and Westwood Heights over the 10-year Best Food Forward program. Success is based on collecting participant data, which comes in many forms, including biometric data and academic achievements. “I’m so encouraged by the rate of participation in these early stages,” said Dombrowski. “When it comes to the kid’s engagement at school, short-term success would be higher attendance rates. And our greatest hope would be to see higher graduation rates long term.”

Best Food Forward’s Partnerships

Giving a voice to those we serve.

Michigan Department of Health “We’re taking into account that many people are involved in different aspects of a child’s life.” ―Heather Holland, Department Analyst, RND

Warren Consolidated School District “It’s important to talk to our parents—they are the hub of our school’s community.” ―Kerry Keener, Principal at Pearl Lean Elementary

Parent and Community Outreach “It’s clear there is so much need. The participation was so instant—like wildfire.” ―Addie Stone-Richards, Consultant

Wayne State University  “We want to understand the breadth of the environments these families live—from inside the school to outside in the community.” ―Rachael Dombrowski, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor

United Way for Southeastern Michigan  “Curriculum is taught through dialogue learning, which is an active, learner-centered approach.” ―Lilly Doher, Project Manager, Health and Basic Needs

Our Strategic Priorities At Work in the Community

Partner for Greater Impact: Gleaners collaborates with partners to understand challenges and maximize impact as we create solutions to achieve a hunger-free community that can be replicated across our state and nation.

Stay up to date on the Best Food Forward program at gcfb.org/bestfoodforward.

Gleaners Leadership Team

At Gleaners, we believe that complex problems require collaborative solutions. In 2015, we heard from our Pontiac Distribution Center: “Our families need milk.” This sentiment rang true in all communities we serve—especially hungry households with young children. Milk is one of the most requested but rarely donated items at Gleaners. In order to get this highly nutritious, yet perishable item out to people in need, we needed the expertise of our entire team.

Operations Team: Secured the most cost-effective ways to acquire milk, thanks to partnerships with United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM), Michigan Dairy, Kroger, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Programs Team: Collaborated with operations to ensure milk would make it into the hands of families across southeast Michigan. Through this teamwork, fresh milk was available across the majority of Gleaners’ School Food Mobile pantries.

Logistics Team: With food safety certification from AIB International, our logistics team created an innovative and secure way to deliver fresh milk to people in need right where they live and work. Thanks to support from UDIM, Ford, and Carrier Transicold, our nimble trucks are constantly on the go, delivering fresh milk to our partner schools and hundreds of agency partner pantries, soup kitchens, and more.

Community Engagement Team: To better gauge potential public support around the distribution of milk, our community engagement team turned to our network of more than 40,000 volunteers with an ask: Would you give $10 to help provide fresh milk to people in need? Their support was overwhelming, signaling to Gleaners that the wider community would view our efforts to deliver nutritious milk as an essential tool to fight hunger.

Finance & Data Teams: With operations, logistics, programming and community support in place, it was time to ensure that milk distribution was part of our annual planning and budgeting. Our finance team helped organize acquired support and created a process for restricted funding to ensure money for milk would be available each year.

Fundraising Team: Gained tremendous amounts of support for our milk distribution—from national partnerships to donors like you. In order to maintain our distribution goal of eight truckloads per month, we need your help. Donate and support our M.I.L.K. Movement at gcfb.org/milk.

National Recognition: Thanks to our dedicated teams and network of supporters, Gleaners was awarded the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s 2019 Outstanding Community Impact Award.

Team Spotlight

Cara Rayner

Director of Operations & Project Management

With the distribution of milk touching nearly every team here at Gleaners, there was need for a point person to guide collaborations and create efficiencies. Cara Rayner was recruited for the job in 2017. With more than nine years of management experience at Gleaners, ranging from food drives to food distribution programs, Rayner helped define and develop her new position from scratch. Her diverse experience and vast expertise not only helped Gleaners deliver more than 415,000 gallons of milk, Rayner has also driven collaborative programming with local healthcare partners and their patients with overwhelming success. In 2020, Rayner is helping expand our Fresh Market Pantries (page 2) and guiding our teams to find more ways to collaborate and drive innovative solutions.

Strategic Priorities At Work to Support Our Teams

Optimize People Power: By investing in our employees and encouraging cross-team collaboration, Gleaners empowers its staff to engage in new methods of result-oriented problem solving.

Board of Directors

Standing Committees

2019 Impact

2019 Financial Summary*

Gleaners is grateful to the more than 40,108 donors who make our work possible every year.

We recognize our Legacy Society and President’s Table donors below.

The Gleaners Legacy Society

2019 President's Table

A pioneer and leader in the gourmet greenhouse industry, Mastronardi Produce is the largest greenhouse vegetable company in North America. The 4th generation, family-owned company has been growing and selling flavorful, world-class Non-GMO produce under the SUNSET® brand for over 65 years.

Gleaners first met Mastronardi Produce back in 2015, when the company inquired about donating their fresh produce to people in need. Since then, Mastronardi Produce has donated millions of pounds of fresh produce each year, which goes directly to five Gleaners warehouses throughout southeast Michigan. “Mastronardi Produce is one of our most passionate and generous donors,” says Misty Sidelinker, Food Procurement Manager at Gleaners. “They provide us with items that we don’t get anywhere else, like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Their products are of the utmost quality.”

In 2019, Gleaners’ partnership with Mastronardi Produce made an incredible impact on our shared mission to end hunger in southeast Michigan.

You Can Make A Difference

Each $1 you donate helps Gleaners feed one hungry person for one day. 92¢ of every dollar you give goes directly toward feeding hungry people.


Make a secure donation online today at gcfb.org.

Call in a Credit Card or Installment Gift: Contact our Development Operations, (866) 453-2637 ext. 660.

Send a Check: Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan 2131 Beaufait Street, Detroit, MI 48207-3410

Make a Planned Gift

Contact Cecile Aitchison, Vice President of Development, (313) 308-0358 ext. 201 or caitchison@gcfb.org.

Other Ways to Give

There are many ways you can make a difference in the lives of our hungry neighbors. Browse our list of other opportunities at gcfb.org/waystogive.

Food & Fund Drives / Events

To hold a drive or support an event, please contact Terry Collia, Director of Marketing, (313) 923-3535 ext. 205 or tcollia@gcfb.org.


You can help Gleaners in a variety of ways: packing food for distribution, mailing letters, or even at one of our special events. Individuals, families, and groups are welcome. Sign up to help.

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