Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ann Arbor Food Banks and Food Assistance

Ann Arbor Food Banks and Food Assistance
Food Gatherers. Dhu Varren road in North Ann Arbor

As the holiday season approaches, more and more people are looking for ways to give back and improve their communities.  One of the most essential and most basic causes is food assistance.  With the recent announcement that the Federal Government will be cutting food stamps, many families will be looking to food banks and other programs to help them get by and feed their families.  

Annually, food banks and assistance programs see an increase in demand during the holiday season and winter months.  Those with seasonal jobs may be out of work, families with children in school depend on free lunches and some free breakfasts that are unavailable during breaks and vacations from classes.  (This same trend accounts for increased demand over summer months for young, school-aged children.)  Thankfully, this is also a time of year when more people are available to volunteer and donate to organizations that serve those in need.  

In the Ann Arbor area, there are a variety of organizations that provide food assistance for families, seniors, and children.  These organizations vary from food pantries, drop-off services, free meals on-site, and food assistance - often in the form of SNAP or WIC benefits.  

For those looking to contribute or volunteer, many organizations are in need of donations (both cash and material) and volunteers.  Volunteering at a food pantry, free meal program, or food distribution service can be rewarding and educational for every age group.  


Food Gatherers is the largest non-profit organization that provides food assistance in Ann Arbor.  Annually, they see about 5,000 volunteers who assist with sorting food, loading trucks, delivery, and assisting with special events and drives.  Volunteers are needed in the warehouse Monday-Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM, with evening hours on Wednesday, and weekend hours available.  Food Gatherers takes individual volunteers and large groups (though groups usually need to sign up about 4-6 weeks in advance).  Volunteers should be at least 14 years old, but children 8 and older can volunteer with a parent or guardian.  This organization makes a great place for an office or class to spend a day of service, and welcomes the assistance of other groups.  For more information about volunteering, visit their website or email info@foodgatherers.org.  

The Back Door Food Pantry is 100% volunteer-run and accepts volunteers on a weekly basis on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  To volunteer, email info@backdoorpantry.org.

Meals on Wheels - Ann Arbor - depends on its volunteers to deliver meals to elderly clients every day.  Volunteers can choose to work one or more days a week, and will deliver at least 10 meals per day to their clients.  Meals are picked up at 11:30 AM on weekdays and 10:30 AM on Saturdays.  To request an application, call the Meals on Wheels Ann Arbor office at (734) 998-6686.  For Ypsilanti volunteer inquiries, call (734) 487-9669.

Ozone House is an Ann Arbor program that serves youths (ages 10-20) in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.  Along with many other services, they offer food assistance.  For those interested in volunteering with the Ozone, there are opportunities for working with youths, assisting with meals, or handling calls on their crisis line.  Volunteer information and applications can be found online: http://ozonehouse.org/join.php.  


Monetary and food donations are essential to the success of food assistance programs.  While every organization may vary slightly on the kind of foods and goods they can accept, there are universal rules to keep in mind when donating.

Donating Food and Goods:

  • Donate healthy, rich foods like canned meats, soups, vegetables, and fruit.
  • Donate non-perishable foods: consider pasta, sauce, frozen and canned goods.
  • Some programs will accept fresh produce, dairy, and meat: be sure to check with the organization before donating perishable foods.  Food Gatherers in Ann Arbor will accept produce (bought or home-grown), meat, and dairy.
  • Donate toiletries, personal care items, and household products: families need everything from toilet paper to dish soap as well.   
  • Avoid glass packaging: it breaks easily and can create big delays and messes
  • Check expiration and “use-by” dates on food: most programs will accept foods that are just past their expiration dates (about 6 months for canned goods, about 2 days for baked goods, etc.).  
  • If you are unsure about a particular item, call ahead or bring it up with the drop-off staff and volunteers.
  • Remember, all donations are greatly appreciated.

Monetary Donations:

According to Food Gatherers, “For every $5 you contribute, Food Gatherers will provide 15 meals to adults, seniors and children in the Washtenaw County community.”  That is a powerful figure on what even a small donation can mean for families in the area.  

Donations to non-profits and community agencies that help feed the hungry are tax deductible and can often be conveniently made through the organizations’ websites via credit.  Donations can also be sent as cash or check to organizations’ mailing addresses.

Ann Arbor Community Center located on North Main in Ann Arbor.

How Food Banks Operate

Food banks accept donations of food and money from community members and businesses, and use that to distribute food and assistance to families and individuals who cannot afford to provide adequate food for themselves.  These programs seek to provide healthy food that will ensure families and individuals (especially children and seniors) get the nutrients they need to live healthy and productive lives.  

Some programs deliver food - some in the form of groceries that the households can then prepare as use as needed, and some as hot meals that are delivered fully prepared.  Other programs provide food on a sliding scale, but most provide free food.  Food banks, like the Ann Arbor Community Center and Food Gatherers, have monthly limits for what families can receive.  For example, individuals can receive food from the Ann Arbor Community Center on a monthly basis and are provided with largely non-perishable goods that can last a full month or more.

Most organizations depend heavily on volunteers to assist with sorting, loading, and delivering food.  Even organizations with large staffs report that about 70% of their hours come from volunteer work.  

Why You Matter to Local Food Banks

Volunteering at the local food bank is a great way to give back to your community.  These programs rely on volunteers to manage donations, distribute food, and assist those in need.  Just a few hours a week can make a huge difference for non-profits in the area, and those hours can be really meaningful for the people putting in the hours.  Volunteer opportunities are also available for larger groups, so groups of friends, co-workers, or students.  It is a great way to bond, give back, and learn more about your community.

Donating is easy too.  Families can simply go through their cupboards and choose a few canned goods or toiletries to donate, which is a fun and easy way to get children involved in giving back and understanding the value of charitable work.

Remember that just $5.00 can feed up to 15 people.  A little goes a long way, and your community needs you.

Comprehensive List of Locations and Contacts

Locations and Contacts

Food Gatherers accepts walk-in donations of non-perishable (dry or canned) food, fresh produce, meat, dairy, and other goods from 9 AM to 4 PM, Monday through Friday.  Food is then distributed throughout the community to those in need on a daily basis.

Donation Drop Off Location
1 Carrot Way, Ann Arbor MI 48105

Contact Information:
P.O. Box 131037, Ann Arbor, MI 48113
Phone: (734) 761-2796

The pantry is open every Thursday from 4 PM to 7 PM.  Many donations are distributed to Food Gatherers for delivery other days of the week.

2309 Packard St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

The Ann Arbor Community Center provides many resources including food distribution.  Visit the website for a schedule of perishable food days, hot meals, and to apply for food assistance through their online form.  
625 N. Main, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 662-3128
Meals on Wheels operates with daily volunteers and monetary donations.  They provide lunch and dinner six days per week primarily to seniors and disabled adults.  They do not deny services to those outside that criteria, and request a suggested daily donation, but will not deny services if that donation cannot be met.

Ann Arbor Location:
2025 Traverwood Dr., Suite F
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
(734) 998-6686

Ypsilanti Location:
1110 W. Cross
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
(734) 487-9669

Bryant Community serves emergency needs and can assist up to twice per month with emergencies for Ann Arbor residents.  

Monday, Tuesday, and Friday - 10 AM to 5 PM
Wednesday and Thursday - 8:30 AM to 5 PM

3 W. Eden Ct.
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
(734) 477-0292
Based in the Northside Community Center, this Emergency Food Program assists low-income individuals and families in Ann Arbor during emergency situations or on a monthly basis, depending on need.  

Tuesdays:  3 PM to 7 PM
Thursday 9 AM to 3 PM
Saturdays 1 PM to 4 PM

815 Taylor St
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
(734) 662-4462
Food Stamp and low-income assistance programs

22 Center Street
Ypsilanti, MI 48198
(734) 481-2000
Free dinner each Tuesday at 5:30 PM.

517 E. Washington
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734)  663-9376
Free meals on Saturdays and Sundays - 4 to 5 PM.  Emergency food assistance distributed on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

518 Harriet
Ypsilanti, MI 48198
(734) 484-2989

Ozone House offers many services for youths in the community - ages 10 to 20 - including emergency meal assistance.  Ozone House can also help teens in a number of crises, and they can be reached at the number below.

Ypsilanti Location:
102 N. Hamilton, Ypsilanti
(734) 485-2222

Ann Arbor Location:
1705 Washtenaw, Ann Arbor
Business line: (734) 662-2265.
Crisis line (24 hours): (734) 662-2222

Robert J. Delonis Center  (Shelter Association of Washtenaw County)
Free meals on weekdays at noon and at 5:30 PM, and at 2:30 PM on weekends.

312 W. Huron Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 662-2829
Salvation Army of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti provides free meals and emergency food to residents who qualify.  Call ahead to ask about requirements and documentation.

Ypsilanti Location:
9 S. Park, Ypsilanti MI 48197
(734) 482-4700

Ann Arbor Location:
100 Arbana, Ann Arbor MI 48103
(734) 668-8353
SOS Community Services offer more limited assistance, up to four times (plus one holiday) per year.  They provide a day’s worth of food to each member of a household.  Call ahead for additional requirements.

Tuesdays from 10am-6:30pm.

114 N. River Street                  
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
(734) 961-1999
Free breakfast served every day (7 days a week, 365 days a year) from 7:30 to 8:30 AM.

306 N. Division
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734)  663-0518

Seeking Assistance?

For those seeking assistance, visit the following websites for comprehensive information for Ann Arbor resources for food and meal assistance.

General Food Assistance with Programs and Organizations: http://www.foodgatherers.org/?module=Page&sID=need-food

Food Pantry Search Engine: http://www.pantrynet.org/ZipCalc.asp

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