A friendship and partnership that helps those in need in the Midland area

A relationship built over decades has proven to be fruitful when it comes to caring about feeding those in need in Midland County.

“For over 20 years, West Midland Family Center has coordinated with Hidden Harvest to alleviate hunger for community members in the high poverty area of western Midland County,” says Greg Dorrien, Executive Director of West Midland Family Center.

Hidden Harvest Food Delivery Specialist Tyler Hecht (center) making a delivery to the West Midland Family Center.
Helen Roth, food rescue coordinator at WMFC, estimates between 70 and 275 families each month directly benefit from foods rescued by Hidden Harvest. Roth says “the partnership is crucial in completing the loop of rescuing food and getting it onto the tables of families in need.” 

Hidden Harvest’s mission is to not waste food and “if you have extra, get it to people that can use it,” says CEO Samantha McKenzie. WMFC does exactly that and that’s why the partnership works so well, she adds.
WMFC Helen Roth and Hidden Harvest Sam McKenzie in the back of a semi truck following the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on site kitchen clean out
Since 1994, 47 million pounds of healthy and nutritious food items have been distributed to hunger relief agencies in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Based in Saginaw County, Hidden Harvest is the area’s only prepared and perishable surplus food rescue program.

Hidden Harvest became an independent non-profit organization in 1998 and moved into a larger facility at 319 Hayden St. in Saginaw at that point. It later expanded its service into the Bay and Midland areas. WMFC is one of its partners. The Hunger Solution Center (a part of Hidden Harvest) opened in October 2005 and has a four-bay garage with a 7,000 square foot warehouse. 

An aspect of Hidden Harvest’s five year plan was to distribute two million pounds of surplus food by 2010. That goal has since been exceeded, says McKenzie. Hidden Harvest now averages more than 208,000 pounds of food per month and this year is targeted to exceed 2.6 million pounds of surplus food to recipient agencies in the region.

McKenzie says its relationship with WMFC is one that works very well. 
“We care about one another. It’s great to have a partner that’s able to connect with the community of Midland the way that [WMFC] does with its community. If they have extra food left over, they will drive it out to the clients who truly need it. We appreciate them going that extra step.”
Shepherd Organics Owner - Tyler Shepherd loading the Hidden Harvest truck with a donation of locally raised and processed organic chicken.
In the last fiscal year, which just ended Sept. 30th, McKenzie says WMFC received 105,616 pounds of food from Hidden Harvest. That’s 88,000 meals that were distributed by WMFC. She calls the partnership “great.”

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays right around the corner, food drives and donations are much appreciated. Any business, school, church or individual can get involved. Just go to hiddenharvest.org for more information on how to volunteer or donate. All good food can be used, however, donations of 20 pounds or more help Hidden Harvest to use funds most efficiently. Monetary donations are also much appreciated.

However, food donations aren't just needed during the celebrations and special times of the year, but year-round, says Mckenzie “It’s those food drives and donations year round” that the non-profit counts on. “We really appreciate it all.”
Hidden Harvest picking up a donation of frozen turkeys from Michigan Sugar.
Hidden Harvest also receives fresh produce from local farmers –i.e: cabbage, sweet corn, squash and or apples – or a supermarket or store, it’s then picked up by Hidden Harvest and taken to local partners like WMFC. Canned goods that contain full meals that don’t need to be heated up also work tremendously.

“That way if someone is homeless or lives out of a car or has had their electricity shut off, they don’t need a stove to heat up a meal,” says McKenzie. Examples of canned items that are ideal include canned fruit and vegetables, canned tuna fish or chicken, cereal (1 box can provide a lot of meals, McKenzie says) plus chicken noodle soup and bread products.

Mckenzie says Hidden Harvest has distributed 47 million pounds of healthy and nutritious food since 1994. 300 different food donors/partners give Hidden Harvest a call, and then excess food is rescued.
 Program Assistant Chelsea Chansen setting up a food distribution in the rain in Bay County last week.
Still a good number of businesses like some new employees at Dow Credit Union recently held a food drive with daily themes. McKenzie describes how the staff got creative, “They made it fun, and it was such a wonderful gift. We’re very thankful for our partners.”

Every day, drivers travel to the same locations, stopping at local Jimmy John's restaurants for example or 7/11’s, The H Hotel, Dow Diamond, Gordon's Food Service, and several churches to rescue food. Hidden Harvest then goes to pick up those food donations via their truck and distributes those donations. Funds are also welcomed since Hidden Harvest depends entirely on private funds to operate. Contributions, foundations, businesses and churches, are typically those who donate. 

For more information go to wmfc.org or hiddenharvest.org.
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Read more articles by Erika M. Hirschman.

A veteran freelance writer and former reporter with The Midland Daily News, Erika has covered a wide array of topics in and around Midland and Saginaw counties. She’s an award winning reporter, and holds a journalism degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy/Marygrove College. When Erika is not writing, she enjoys dancing in her kitchen with her two dogs and family. She loves to read, cook, travel and go to concerts. She’s lived in Saginaw County for 26 years.