GRAND RAPIDS — Second Harvest Gleaners Food Bank of West Michigan invites area business leaders to tour its Comstock Park facilities on National Hunger Awareness Day Thursday, June 3.
It might pay off in tax or business expense savings.
The day, being called “One Big Table,” is an initiative of America’s Second Harvest, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief network.
In West Michigan, Second Harvest Gleaners will offer an open house from 1 to 7 p.m. at its 4-year-old, 55,000-square-foot warehouse, 864 West River Center Drive.
Visitors can see how Gleaners, a nonprofit clearinghouse of donated food, distributes 1.3 million pounds per month to 1,100 charitable agencies in the Upper Peninsula and West Michigan.
Visitors will be able to tour the facility and its 3,500-square-foot walk-in freezer, and meet the people behind the scenes who make it possible for Gleaners to feed more than 263,000 people each year.
On hand to greet visitors will be the staff, volunteers from churches, food pantries and other charities and food donors.
Director John Arnold explains that Gleaners doesn’t purchase anything it distributes to the needy. “Everything is donated by businesses that grow, make, transport, sell or in some way handle food,” he said.
“They are the reason we can do what we do, so it’s important to get the word out that we need their help now more than ever.”
Since 1981, Gleaners has provided food to the hungry by routing food industry surpluses and usable discards to charity agencies in its 40-county area. It accepts most everyday food products and non-food necessities found in grocery stores. It receives such donations as leftover promotional products, misprints, dented goods or close code-dated items.
“As long as it’s fit for human consumption, we take it,” Arnold said. “Our goal is to feed as many hungry people as we can.”
He advised that one of Gleaners’ biggest, most consistent donors is Spartan Stores, which gave over 1.7 million pounds of food last year.
Gleaners reports that about 3.9 billion pounds of food are land-filled annually in Michigan. Arnold says less than 2 percent of that figure — 57 million pounds — would solve the hunger problem in West Michigan.
“All we need to do is catch more usable product before it gets thrown away, and we can end hunger in our corner of the world,” he said.
Gleaners says businesses benefit concretely and intangibly when donating to the charity. Corporations may receive a tax deduction of cost plus up to half of a product’s retail value mark-up. Arnold also points out that donating can relieve businesses of costs associated with warehousing, transportation and disposal of a product.
Since 1981, hundreds of companies, large and small, have donated over 180 million pounds of product to Gleaners.
Top 2003 donors include Coca-Cola, Country Fresh Dairies, General Mills, Gordon Food Service, Ice Mountain Bottling, Kellogg, Kraft, Minute Maid, Pearson Foods, Spartan Stores, Superior Sales, Van Solkema Farms and Yoplait.
Further information about donating to Gleaners is available by calling Gail Philbin at 784-3250, Ext. 227. Details about “One Big Table” are available online at www.hungerday.org.