Reaping the Forgotten Harvest

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Imagine 96 billion pounds of food—that’s 43 billion kilograms.

Volunteers from North Hills CRC sort through tomatoes from area restaurants and businesses.

It’s a staggering amount—but that’s how much food is thrown away each year in America. A group of volunteers from North Hills Christian Reformed Church in Troy, Mich., recently discovered that reality firsthand.

Church members spent several hours sorting food thrown away by local restaurants and businesses. The food, which would otherwise end up in landfills, instead feeds people in need, thanks to a not-for-profit organization called Forgotten Harvest.

Forgotten Harvest rescues discarded food and distributes it to shelters for homeless people and for women who have been battered, along with food pantries around greater Detroit.

A few hours of sorting tomatoes and onions provided North Hills members with a glimpse into a growing problem.

“It gives us a reminder of all the people in the area who really on a daily basis go hungry,” said Anita Beem, North Hills’s director of education and outreach. “We thought we can make a difference—we can keep things from not only being wasted, but we can also help people who really need the help.”

Twenty-six volunteers made North Hills’ first trip to Forgotten Harvest, which distributes food to 200 agencies. Beem said the church is planning several more trips.

It took only one trip for Beem to realize how big of an issue hunger is in her community.

“It was mind-boggling,” Beem said.

Forgotten Harvest depends on volunteers to help sort food that comes from more than 400 area businesses and restaurants. Part of the experience for volunteers includes being educated on how food that would otherwise be thrown away can be used to serve a needy community.

“So many people have to choose between paying their bills and eating, putting gas in their car and eating,” Forgotten Harvest volunteer manager Krista Poole says in the organization’s promotional video. “We help to fill that gap.”

It’s a message that hit home with church volunteers.

“We already have people asking, ‘When can we go again?’” Beem said. “So that’s encouraging.”

About the Author

Jeff Arnold is the Banner’s regional news correspondent for classes Kalamazoo and Lake Erie.

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