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Washtenaw United: Food Gatherers Addressing Increased Food Insecurity Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Food Gatherers
Food Gatherers

As we work through the Coronavirus pandemic, we must consider the needs of others, including basics like access to food.  For more than 30 years, Food Gatherers has put feeding the hungry and addressing food insecurity at the center of its mission.  During this public health crisis, the need for that work is increasing.  Food Gatherers president and CEO Eileen Spring joined WEMU's David Fair to tell the story of a community coming together to make sure those needs are met in this week's installment of "Washtenaw United."

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


Eileen Spring has been Food Gatherers President and CEO since 1994.  Ms. Spring has led three capital campaigns and stewarded a community-wide Food Security Plan that dramatically improved the amount of fresh produce and protein available to individuals struggling with food insecurity.  She is a founding member of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance and is active on the board of the Food Bank Council of Michigan and the local FEMA board.


Food Gatherers

Food Gatherers COVID-19 Updates

"U-M drive-up donation site will collect food for community members in addition to protective gear for health workers"

Food Gatherers Donation Page


United Way of Washtenaw County has been a proud supporter of Food Gatherers for many years, investing over $2.5 million in programs that get food to folks that need it most.  Food Gatherers operates at the program and systems level to alleviate hunger in our County, one of United Way’s goals.  Their leadership and work in response to the COVID-19 Crisis has been vital to meeting the emerging needs of folks dealing with the economic fallout of the crisis. 

United Way of Washtenaw County invests in organizations like Food Gatherers because one in seven people in Washtenaw County struggle with food insecurity or hunger.  Food security means having enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.  Food is a basic human need.  People that are not food secure are more likely to suffer from malnutrition, be obese, and have poor health outcomes, as they are often forced to choose the cheapest food options, even if they are not the most healthy options.1 

Food insecurity is especially harmful to children.  Hungry children are sick more often and are more likely to be hospitalized. They are more likely to suffer growth and development impairments.  Hungry children, ages 0-3, are unable to learn as much, as fast, or as well as their peers during this critical period of rapid brain growth.  They do more poorly in school and have lower academic achievement because they are not prepared for school and cannot concentrate.  Hungry children often grow into workers that are not as well prepared mentally, physically, emotionally or socially to perform effectively in the contemporary workforce.2 

1 Feeding America, Washtenaw County Hunger Data

2 No Kid Hungry: Child Food Insecurity: The Economic Impact on our Nation

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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