Food Gatherers partners with DoorDash to offer free food delivery for homebound residents

Washtenaw County food bank and food rescue program Food Gatherers has partnered with DoorDash to offer free home delivery of food for homebound residents.

Eileen Spring, Food Gatherers' president and CEO, explains that a grant to the Food Bank Council of Michigan from Project DASH (the charitable arm of DoorDash) will allow Food Gatherers to complete countless "dashes" for a year. As a member of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, Food Gatherers is one of the first food banks in the state to pilot the service.

"This program adds extra muscle to efforts that we are trying to grow in Washtenaw County. We work with 170 different programs, and many of those who are doing food distribution have more recently added delivery options as part of their work," Spring says. "But it's a lot of work done by volunteers, it's not available in every program, and there are some areas in the community that are harder to get to."

She says the need for home delivery has always been a "persnickety challenge" for local pantries, but the pandemic has heightened it. Spring says there's a significant number of county residents are homebound, but don't quite qualify for direct meal delivery through federal programs like Meals on Wheels. 

"Some people that Food Gatherers serve can cook for themselves, and don't even necessarily need meals, but groceries. For reasons that could relate to health or transportation, they don't have access," she says. 

The new support will have a critical impact on Food Gatherers. The organization has an interactive map on its website for people to find out what to do and where to go if they are in need of food. However, that doesn't always address some more challenging requests. 

"Sometimes we get a call on a Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. and someone is in a really dire circumstance and they can't get to a pantry or they can't get to one that is open," Spring says. "The DoorDash service helps to solve that problem as well." 

Food Gatherers will be piloting the DoorDash service with Jewish Family Services in Ann Arbor and Hope Clinic in Ypsilanti. Both are well-established pantries in Food Gatherers' network and both have existing food delivery programs. Interested individuals can contact either of those organizations or Food Gatherers to request delivery.

"This is just going to fold into what they are already doing and alleviate some of the stress on the people there. A paid DoorDash driver will do a pickup from the pantry and make the final delivery instead of a volunteer," Spring says. "And if someone requests help, but falls slightly outside of their normal delivery radius, they could use DoorDash to help them."

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Food Gatherers.