Michigan medical professionals are analyzing the recent surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the state of Michigan. Isaac Mangold/Daily. Buy this photo.

Michigan Medicine is currently hosting its fifth food and toiletry drive since 2020 for Food Gatherers, Washtenaw County’s largest Food Bank, from March 26 through April 10. The drive will also raise donations and funds to directly help families and individuals in need within the Washtenaw community.

Among the 170 programs that Food Gatherers distributes to is Maize and Blue Cupboard, a food pantry that provides food and resources for the entire University of Michigan community, particularly for those experiencing food insecurity. 

LSA sophomore Kerry Matthews, an employee at Maize and Blue Cupboard, highlighted the importance of providing food to students who have been impacted by COVID-19.

“So many students have lost their jobs and lost their parents and other guardians who would typically be providing for them,” Matthews said. 

Food insecurity in Michigan has been a longstanding public health issue that has only intensified since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Food banks have also been affected by challenges like supply chain deficiencies, making it harder for them to support local communities. According to Helen Starman, Food Gatherers’ chief development officer, Food Gatherers has also experienced similar difficulties.

“We have trucks that deliver food, and our fuel prices have gone up significantly,” Starman said. “It’s costing us more now to purchase food due to supply chain issues.”

Starman added that the goal of the Michigan Medicine drive was to alleviate these expenses as much as possible so that individuals and families in Washtenaw County can continue to receive the help they need during these unprecedented times. 

In February, the state of Michigan announced that the Michigan Food Security Council identified increasing funding for fresh food as one of the three main recommendations to the state. In 2021, Food Gatherers distributed more than nine million pounds of food, and more than 60% was fresh produce or protein. 

Along with 281,000 meals’ worth of donations, the previous four Michigan Medicine food drives brought in nearly 5,300 pounds of non-food items such as diapers and toothpaste. Kara Gavin, Michigan Medicine research and policy media relations manager, highlighted the importance of providing these items to people at or near the poverty line. 

“These non-food items are important because even if someone is receiving SNAP food benefits from the government, they can’t use those benefits to buy these items that can be essential to their well-being,” Gavin said. 

Community members are able to donate to the drive online, or by calling 734-761-2796. Monetary donations are accepted, as well as food and toiletries. Donations are being collected at Dock 90 of the North Campus Research Complex (2800 Plymouth Road), from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Daily News Contributor Lena McDonough can be reached at lenarose@umich.edu