December 11, 2020

Season of giving: Michigan Medicine hosts new community-wide food drive to help neighbors in need

Drive-up donation site and online giving effort for Food Gatherers will help address record demand for food and supplies, and support the health of adults and children

Food drive

The season of giving has once again arrived in Michigan. But this one comes amid a surging pandemic, an economic downturn, and a looming deadline for continuation of federal financial relief.

Starting December 14, and continuing through the 22nd, this will include a convenient drive-up drop-off location at the North Campus Research Complex for food and toiletries, open to U-M faculty, staff and students, and members of the community in a position to give. See the list of most-needed items.

Online giving has already begun. Donors may give online via credit card, or get information about giving by mail or phone, at

Building on success

Already this year, donors to Michigan Medicine’s previous two drives have contributed the equivalent of 128,000 meals for Food Gatherers to distribute to more than 170 agencies that serve people throughout Washtenaw County and beyond. Generous individuals have also given thousands of personal care items, from diapers to toothbrushes.

The donation drive started in March, as part of Michigan Medicine’s effort to gather much-needed personal protective equipment during the early days of the pandemic when normal supply chains were disrupted.

Since that time, Food Gatherers’ partners have experienced a consistent surge in demand from people affected by the economic effects of the pandemic. Uncertainty over the future of federal and state relief efforts is making planning difficult.

“Even as our front line provides care of thousands of patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals and clinics, and prepare to vaccinate tens of thousands against the disease, we remain mindful of the challenges which impact our general community and our caring values,” says Tony Denton, senior vice president and chief operating officer for the U-M Health System.

He adds, “The gift of food remains a constant source of caring and demonstrates a basic yet measurable difference to those who need a helping hand, especially at December holiday time when we celebrate the spirit of giving. I am very grateful for the enthusiastic food and supply drive responses shown by the Michigan Medicine community throughout this year.”

Details about donating:

  • Donors may drive up to drop off food and toiletries at Dock 90 of U-M’s North Campus Research Complex, at 2800 Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor, just off Huron Parkway. Get directions via Google Maps.
  • Donations can be left between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
  • Volunteers from across Michigan Medicine will be available to help unload donations between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends.
  • Cash donations give Food Gatherers the most flexibility, including buying in bulk at reduced prices. Every dollar donated can buy three meals thanks to the organization’s purchasing strategy.
  • Donors should not bring cash or gift cards to the drive-up location.
  • For the drop-off donation site, donors are asked to avoid giving items that are perishable (fresh or frozen), expired, already opened or packed in glass.
  • Refrigerated fresh and frozen items can be given at Food Gatherers headquarters at 1 Carrot Way, Ann Arbor, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Upon arrival, call (734)-761-2796 to ask for someone to come out for a contactless drop-off.
  • PPE for Michigan Medicine is not needed at this time.

Most-needed items:

  • Low-sodium hearty soups like beef stew and chili
  • Canned fish or chicken, low-sodium
  • Canned vegetables, low-sodium or no salt
  • Pasta, in cans or packages
  • Rice
  • Cereal and oatmeal
  • Granola bars
  • Peanut butter and jelly - plastic jars only
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Disposable razors
  • Nutritional supplement drinks such as Ensure
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Baby food and formula

More about demand:

Food Gatherers has distributed between 700,000 and a million pounds of food every month since March, more than 25% higher than its monthly distributions in 2019. The summer food program for children served 40% more meals than the previous year. Forty percent of the people seeking help from the agencies that Food Gatherers supports had never sought food assistance before.

The national organization Feeding America projects that by the end of 2020, overall food insecurity in Washtenaw County will rise by 37% and child food insecurity will have doubled. Even with COVID-19 vaccines and other treatments on the horizon, it will take several years for food insecurity rates to return to pre-pandemic levels, Food Gatherers predicts.

One of the agencies that benefits from Food Gatherers is the Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels program, which is part of Michigan Medicine, serving hundreds of older adults with home-delivered meals and supplies. AAMOW buys items at low cost through Food Gatherers.