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Ann Arbor restaurants rally to support Food Gatherers during COVID-19 pandemic

Cottage Inn Pizzas ready to be donated to Food Gatherers' Community Kitchen.
Cottage Inn Pizzas ready to be donated to Food Gatherers' Community Kitchen. (Courtesy: Food Gatherers)

ANN ARBOR – After Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced an executive order shutting down dine-in service at bars and restaurants on March 16, several local establishments decided to use their inventories to donate meals to Food Gatherers, Washtenaw County’s food rescue organization.

“Right away we had calls coming in from restaurants, cafes, catering businesses and hospitality businesses that suddenly had bulk food that they won’t be able to use,” said Food Gatherers Communications Coordinator Lauren Grossman.

Most meals have gone to Food Gatherers’ Community Kitchen in downtown Ann Arbor’s homeless shelter The Delonis Center, which has already seen positive COVID-19 cases among its clients.

Food Gatherers’ Chief Development Officer Helen Starman said the timing couldn’t have been better since the Community Kitchen has been operating a skeleton crew of three people following news of the outbreak.

“Restaurants are in this great position to donate ready-made meals because they have the ingredients, the full kitchen and the health and food safety aspect in place," said Starman.

“Our community kitchen is a fully-licensed kitchen but it’s very small. The social distancing guidelines and then the shelter-in-place guidelines made it really almost impossible to effectively host enough volunteers to safely prepare meals. We have people begging to come in but we can’t accommodate them in a way that’s safe.”

Through its vast community network, Food Gatherers has also been “matchmaking” restaurants with local organizations in need. For instance, they will pair a local church that serves meals on Tuesdays with a restaurant that wants to donate 30 meals.

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Restaurants that have been donating meals to the Community Kitchen include:

  • Cottage Inn Pizza
  • Mongolian BBQ
  • Ayse’s Turkish Cafe
  • Everest Sherpa Restaurant
  • Hutkay Fusion
  • Cardamom
  • Harvest Kitchen
  • Grange Kitchen & Bar
  • Tio’s Mexican Cafe
  • Zingerman’s Deli

Donations to the Community Kitchen are always needed, said Starman. The kitchen is open seven days a week and is under unique pressures to serve some of the most vulnerable members of the community during these unprecedented times.

Want to help? Contact Food Gatherers at 734-761-2796 or via email at info@foodgatherers.org.

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