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Behind the Scenes at Food Gatherers
Monday, February 9, 2015
Giant Orange Carrots

Giant orange carrots stand in the snow, marking the approach to one of Washtenaw County’s premier charities, the 25-year old Food Gatherers.

Chief Development Officer Mary Schlitt (right) led our Elderwise members through an explanation of how this largely-volunteer group is able to rescue over ten million dollars’ worth of good food each year, food that would otherwise be wasted, and distribute it to some 44,000 food-insecure individuals throughout
the county.

Mary Schlitt and Elderwise Members
The bulk of the food is donated perishables from major distributors. Food Gatherer trucks are on the road throughout the day, collecting it and delivering it to their warehouse on Ann Arbor’s north side where it must be quickly sorted and re-boxed. The trucks then deliver it to a network of 150 partner programs.

After a brief stop at the Exotic Foods Museum, a collection of curious edibles, we were given a guided walk through the chilled sorting and repacking areas and the refrigerated areas used for the handling of produce, and frozen meats. An astonishing 5,000 volunteers contribute four or more hours per week, making possible the movement in and out of nine tons of food each day. We finished with a look at their high-tech digester which disposes of spoiled items by reducing them to grey water.

Spoiled Food Sign

There is enormous wastage within the food industry while, at the same time, there are large numbers of individuals who suffer from health and financial difficulties related to nutrition. We couldn’t help but be impressed by what this organization does to reduce both.

by John Stewart, Elderwise Member

Get Out and About with Elderwise

Elderwise offers local tours to organizations such as Food Gatherers
every semester, and are publicized in the Elderwise catalog.

For more information on Food Gatherers, please visit

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