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How to Help Fight Food Insecurity and Support Restaurants in Detroit

Where to give, volunteer, donate food, and support local restaurants during the novel coronavirus pandemic

A volunteer with Forgotten Harvest loads food into a cart at a mobile pantry April 14, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The organization distributes food throughout the metro area, which has seen an uptick in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Brittany Holloway-Brown/Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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The pandemic has reinforced and exacerbated many of the inequities in our society — across race, age, and class. In Detroit, where community organizations were already straining to serve residents in need before COVID-19 swept through the city, the situation has become even more challenging. At the same time, many Michiganders are wondering, “How can I help?” Well, one way is by supporting the local food system.

According to stats from July, roughly 2.3 million people in Michigan have applied for state and federal unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic. And while the state has increased and in some cases extended jobless benefits, people are now increasingly relying on food assistance to get them through the severe economic downturn. Meanwhile, the pandemic has made it more difficult to coordinate volunteers, collect food, and distribute it safely.

The sheer amount of need in this time of crisis is staggering, but there are opportunities for people to have a big impact in their area. Around the country, a network of mutual aid groups are working together to keep neighbors fed and deliver groceries to people at risk; chefs and bartenders are building pop-up pantries to provide meals and supplies to their fellow unemployed service industry workers; and citizens are working with local food rescues to make sure meat and produce get to the people who need it most. In this guide, Eater Detroit has collected and organized resources for where to give, what to give, and how to volunteer in and around the Southeast Michigan region.

Editors have done their best to vet the charities included here, but it’s always important to make sure when you give money or time that the organization you’re supporting aligns with your values and has a transparent, proven track record. If you only have time or resources to give, give it, but monetary donations — especially those offered over an extended period — can be even more impactful because charities tend to know where the greatest need is. If you’ve chosen a group and aren’t sure what’s the best way to help, it’s worth reaching out and asking.



A sign hangs in the window of American Coney Island restaurant in Detroit, Michigan reading “Beating this virus one heart at a time” on March 24, 2020. - At 12:01 am Tuesday March 24,2020 Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered a ‘Stay at Home and Stay Safe Order’ to slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the State of Michigan which now has 1,791 confirmed cases and 24 deaths due to the virus.
A sign hangs in the window of American Coney Island restaurant in Detroit.
Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images

Mutual Aid Groups

Mutual aid groups are a political organizational movement to help make sure fellow community members’ basic needs are met in an environment where current systems aren’t meeting those needs. This is perhaps the most direct form of participation, where you are actively organizing and participating in a system to help your neighbors. They are making a comeback around the world during the pandemic as people band together to help support their communities and collectively advocate for social justice through action. Organizers have developed online portholes with information about local mutual aid groups such as Collective Care Is Our Best Weapon Against COVID-19 and Mutual Aid Hub. Below are a few local organizations helping provide food assistance and other resources and support:

The Sharing Table: New Center-based mutual aid group the Sharing Table collects donations for food and supplies from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays at its tents on Seward Avenue. Sharing Table then organizes and redistributes the items for free to people in the community. For more information email thesharingtabledetroit@gmail.com or donate through Venmo at (@Kaylan-Waterman) or the CashApp ($kaylanwaterman).

Detroit Community Fridge: Located in Southwest Detroit at the corner of Morrell Street and West Vernor Highway, this community fridge established by local college students and community members provides a judgement-free way for people to get the food and supplies they need. Anyone can donate food and supplies at any time of day. Volunteers are also welcome to help organize the fridge and can sign up through the Spanish or English form. Donate to help keep the fridge full through Venmo at @detroit-communityfridge.

Michigan Muslims Community Task Force: This grassroots organization is looking for volunteers to assist with its Community Grocery Service Program, Threads of Resistance mask sewing initiative, and Meals for Healthcare Heroes project. People interested in participating can fill out an online form.

Mutual Aid Network of Ypsilanti: Donate or volunteer to support MANY’s food pantry efforts and other programs by emailing outreach@ypsimutualaid.org or calling 734-999-0356.

Food Not Class: This anarchist collective provides mutual aid through food sharing and free stores. It also recovers food and redistributes it. Donate online and get involved by contacting the group through email or by following the Facebook page.

Shelby Township Utica Resiliency Network: This Facebook group was developed to organize community response to the novel coronavirus pandemic in the Shelby Township and Utica areas. Fill out an online form to volunteer or call 586-991-1303 if you’re in need of assistance.

Berkley Community Response: Sign up through an online form to help Berkley community members in need with grocery and drugstore runs.

Metro Detroit COVID-19 Support: This metro Detroit Facebook group aims to provide information and resources to people in the region during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The group helps arrange for grocery deliveries and other types of assistance.

Belleville Area Mutual Aid: This Facebook group is a place where people living in the Belleville area can share resources and seek assistance.

Washtenaw County Mutual Aid + Resources: This Facebook group tracks local resources and connects Washtenaw County community members with sources of help.

Michigan Mutual Aid Coalition: This group is coordinating grocery deliveries to people in south Oakland, south Macomb, and Wayne counties. Donations to the cause can be made through Venmo to @MI-MAC.

Madison Heights Emergency Pantry: This Facebook group supports people who need of food assistance in Madison Heights. Organizers and volunteers collect donated food and supplies and distribute them. To donate or participate as a volunteer contact the group moderator or email MHemergencypantry@gmail.com.


A shopping bag with merchandise, goods and food is hanging on the knob of a front door.
Many volunteer opportunities involve delivering groceries to seniors and other at-risk people in need.
Imagesines/Shutterstock

Volunteer Opportunities

While many organizations aren’t accepting new volunteers at the moment in order to limit the potential spread of COVID-19, a handful of programs are still looking for assistance from individuals and local restaurants. Many of the opportunities involve helping collect and deliver groceries to the elderly and immunocompromised. Others include assisting local food banks and rescues with collecting and distributing food to the public. A few even involve working on non-profit urban farms. Here’s how to get involved:

State of Michigan: The state of Michigan is organizing volunteers to help support efforts to provide food and water as well as address critical health care needs during the pandemic. Sign up to help with local relief efforts online or dial 2-1-1 to connect with service opportunities in your area.

United Way of Southeast Michigan: This organization partners with other local programs to provide hunger relief and other community support programs. Sign up to volunteer online.

Gleaners Food Bank: Gleaners is looking for volunteers to help with its mobile grocery program, face mask program, salvaged food scanning efforts, and more. Check the online volunteer board for details and visit the Gleaners website to donate.

Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency: This organization is providing food and income support, water and energy assistance, and more to residents of Wayne County. The organization is accepting volunteers as well as donations to help support its programs.

Helping Hands Community: This organization connects people who need help with volunteers willing to deliver groceries and other items.

Focus Hope: Local organization Focus Hope is providing food to seniors 65 and older across southeast Michigan. Get involved by volunteering or donating online.

48214 CARE: Collaborative Action for Residents of the Eastside is providing opportunities to people in the community to deliver food and supplies to people in need. Sign up online.

Forgotten Harvest: Food rescue program Forgotten Harvest is accepting volunteers for repacking food and other operations to help disburse food to regional food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens.

Hamtramck Community Initiative: This organization is set up to connect people who need help getting groceries with community volunteers willing to deliver those groceries.

Hamtramck COVID-19 Response: Volunteer to deliver groceries to Hamtramck-based seniors in need through this community based program.

Covid Response: This online platform helps connect residents of Oakland County in need of assistance with help and resources. The organization is accepting volunteers to do things like pack food in warehouses, purchase food, and deliver food.

World Central Kitchen: Help the #ChefsForAmerica response effort locally by signing up to volunteer through World Central Kitchen.

Cadillac Urban Gardens: Cadillac Urban Gardens provides free produce to the Southwest Detroit neighborhood. People are welcome to volunteer at the garden or Merritt Street orchard. Sign up by contacting Dolores Perales at dolores@sdevweb.org or call 313-926-9398. Make a donation to parent group Southwest Detroit Environment online.

Oakland Avenue Urban Farm: This farm in Detroit’s North End is providing free produce to the surrounding community throughout the growing season. People can sign up to volunteer. Alternatively, support the farm by donating to the parent organization North End Christian CDC or directly to Cashapp or Paypal at jannhebron@gmail.com.

Food Rescue US-Detroit: This national platform helps local food rescuers connect with businesses that need to donate their unused food by collecting it and redistributing it to local food banks and organizations in need. For more information on how to donate food or get involved, contact Detroit coordinator Darraugh Collins (darraugh@foodrescue.us) or donate online to help jumpstart community kitchens across the US. Volunteer opportunities are also listed online.


OAK PARK, MICHIGAN - APRIL 15: Keely O’Keefe of Birmingham and a Forgotten Harvest volunteer prepares to load bread into a car on April 15, 2020 in Oak Park, Michigan. The organization distributes food throughout the metro area, which has seen an uptick in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keely O’Keefe of Birmingham and a Forgotten Harvest volunteer prepares to load bread into a car in Oak Park.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Hunger Relief: Food Banks, Food Rescue, and Food Pantries

Food Banks, Food Rescues, and Distribution Organizations

Gleaners Food Bank: Gleaners provides food distribution to Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties. The organization is accepting monetary donations and also offers opportunities to support Gleaners through virtual food drives.

Forgotten Harvest: This food rescue organization collects and delivers surplus food to local charities throughout the region. Due to increased need for food assistance, Forgotten Harvest is requesting people donate and host online fundraisers. Restaurants that need food retrieved for donation can fill out a form through the city of Detroit and Forgotten Harvest will arrange to pick it up.

Food Rescue US-Detroit: This national platform helps local food rescuers connect with businesses that need to donate their unused food by collecting it and redistributing it to local food banks and organizations in need. For more information on how to donate food or get involved, contact Detroit coordinator Darraugh Collins (darraugh@foodrescue.us) or donate online to help jumpstart community kitchens across the US. Volunteer opportunities are also listed online.

Food Bank Council of Michigan: The Food Bank Council has created opportunities to donate to virtual food drives and dairy donations.

United Way of Southeast Michigan: The United Way is providing food assistance, shelter, and support for education during the COVID-19 crisis and is accepting donations towards that work online.

Matrix Human Services: This non-profit organization is seeking donations to help support its efforts to provide food, remote education support, mental health services, senior rides, and more to Detroit community members during the novel coronavirus crisis.

Food Gatherers: Washtenaw County food rescue organization Food Gatherers is busy collecting and distributing food to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization is accepting monetary donations as well as food, PPE, and more.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen: Established by restaurants including Bangkok 96 Street Food, the Block, Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles, Coop to help feed first responders during Michigan’s surge in COVID-19 cases, Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen is now run by chef Phil Jones in partnership with D. Ericson & Associates and the NSO. The organization currently provides food to people in need during the pandemic. Contact Sharon Maiser (smaiser@nso-mi.org) to donate or get more information by emailing dericsonpr@gmail.com.

Soup Kitchens, Pantries, and Shelters

There are dozens of soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters throughout Detroit and greater Southeast Michigan. Even in times when the economy is seemingly doing well, people in communities across the U.S. rely on these places for food. Now, with more people feeling the economic slowdown, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters are being placed under even more pressure. Below is a list of the ones that Eater has confirmed to are still operating, but people looking for other opportunities to help can find more food pantry information online at foodpantries.org.

Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan: This local religious organization is accepting donations to support the La Casa Amiga Food Pantry in Pontiac and All Saints Soup Kitchen as well as programs providing senior citizens with grocery delivery and other types of assistance.

Aasraa Food Pantry: This food pantry is run by a local Sikh organization in Rochester Hills and provides basic food necessities for families in need; regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or disability. Donate to the program or volunteer online.

Cass Community Social Services: This Detroit-based agency is providing meals and other resources to people who are homeless or food insecure. Find more information about how to donate to the cause online.

ICNA Relief - Muslim Family Services: The local branch of this national faith-based organization is working to keep people in the community fed during the COVID-19 crisis with food box and meal distribution as well as other forms of support. Donate to MFS’s programs online, sign up to volunteer, or reach out by email at office@mfs.icnarelief.org.

St. Leo Soup Kitchen: This Detroit-based soup kitchen is doing it’s best to increase social distancing while continuing its mission of feeding people in need. Make a donation online to St. Leo’s or sign up to volunteer.

Twelfth Street Food Pantry: This food pantry is a partner with the Gleaners Food Bank and provides safe distribution of food to the Detroit community. Make a donation online or sign up to volunteer.

Capuchin Soup Kitchen: The Capuchin Soup Kitchen is a well-respected faith-based organization in Detroit that provides meals and other support to people in need. While it is not currently accepting new volunteers, people can show support through donations or by giving items including food from CSK’s wishlist.

Covenant House: This faith-based organization supports homeless youth. Covenant is requesting donations to help keep its shelter clean and stocked with food during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Alternatives For Girls: This organization in Southwest Detroit provides support to young women in need including food and shelter. AFG is currently requesting donations for non-perishable foods, bottled water, juice boxes, grocery store gift cards, sanitary products, masks, gloves, and more. Contact Jessica Pate at jpate@alternativesforgirls.org or by calling 313-444-5737 to learn more about providing a restaurant meal to shelter residents.

Most Holy Trinity Parish: This faith-based food pantry is accepting food donations outside its rectory on Tuesday and Thursday mornings only as well as monetary donations.

Sainte Anne de Detroit Food Bank: This faith-based food bank is currently accepting food and hygiene product donations on Wednesday mornings. Monetary donations can be made online to support its community programs.

Lighthouse Michigan: This organization is collecting food donations to distribute to Oakland County families in need as part of the COVID-19 Emergency Food and Shelter Response Team. There are also opportunities to donate financially to the program or volunteer.

Open Hands Food Pantry and Garden: This food pantry is accepting a limited number of volunteers to help with food distribution, but the simplest way to support this Royal Oak pantry is to give financially. Food donations are not being accepted at this time.

Neighborhood House: This Rochester food pantry is seeking donations toward its COVID-19 emergency fund. The money goes towards food assistance, clothing assistance, rent and utility assistance, and other community programs. The pantry also has items for purchase in an Amazon wishlist.

St. Christine Christian Services: This food pantry and soup kitchen is seeking donations to help with its efforts supporting food insecure residents of Brightmoor

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries: Donate online to support programs providing food and shelter to the homeless in Detroit.

Community Organizations Providing Food Access

Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency: This organization is providing food and income support, water and energy assistance, and more to residents of Wayne County. The organization is accepting donations to help support its programs.

Support Undocumented Families During the COVID-19 Crisis: This fundraiser supports undocumented families in the metro Detroit area who are at particular risk due to lost wages and hospital bills during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The funds will be distributed by existing religious and non-profit organizations as well as community leaders through a referral system.

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network: This community organization was established in 2006 to fight food insecurity in Detroit’s Black community. DBCFSN supports Black growers, provides agricultural education, and fights for food justice policy initiatives. It’s also been central in the efforts to establish the Detroit People’s Food Co-op. Support the program by signing up to volunteer, joinings as a member, or donating. Detroit People’s Food Co-op is also hosting a drive to gather new members.

Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation: Undocumented workers were left out of the CARES Act. DHDC is doing critical work during the novel coronavirus pandemic to make sure undocumented workers in the region get connected with the financial assistance they need to put food on their tables by working with partners to distribute the Detroit COVID UndocuFund. Donations to the organizations programs can be made online.

African Bureau of Immigration & Social Affairs: This organization supports African immigrants and refugees living in Detroit and is one of the partnering organizations making sure undocumented workers get critical financial help the the Detroit COVID UndocuFund. Donate to ABISA through this online fundraiser to support its ongoing efforts to provide food and supplies to community members in need during the pandemic.

ICNA Relief - Muslim Family Services: The local branch of this national faith-based organization is working to keep people in the community fed during the COVID-19 crisis with food box and meal distribution as well as other forms of support. Donate to MFS’s programs online, sign up to volunteer, or reach out by email at office@mfs.icnarelief.org.

Keep Growing Detroit: This organization supports the local food system by providing Detroiters with the resources to start their own gardens at minimal cost. The group also donates surplus food cultivated on its lots to food banks in need. KGD isn’t currently taking volunteers due to the novel coronavirus but it is accepting donations or purchases from its wishlist.

Rising Stars Academy: This food service education program for people with special needs is providing free breakfast, lunch, and snacks to anyone with special needs under the age of 26, along with anyone else under the age of 18 in their family. Donations can be made online to help support Rising Stars’ programming.

Eastern Market: Detroit’s food hub is seeking donations to help support its work maintaining food access throughout this crisis and safe operations.

Detroit Boxing Gym: Local athletic club Detroit Boxing Gym is supporting families in need by providing food as well as cleaning supplies to people in need. Donate to the cause online.

Brilliant Detroit: This local organization was established to support pre-K and elementary school-aged kids and their families by providing educational programming and resources. Now, the organization is also partnering with local, minority-owned restaurants to provide free meals to people living in neighborhoods across Detroit. Donate to Brilliant’s programming online.

Seva Truck Michigan: This traveling food truck provides free meals to people in need throughout Michigan including schools, shelters, warming centers, and veteran associations. Sign up to volunteer or donate at the website.

Hey Y’all Detroit: This organization is designed to serve neighborhood residents in Detroit by providing free produce boxes, hygiene products, and literacy support. Support the programming by donating online.

Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund: Help support the long term sustainability of Detroit’s growers community by contributing to the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund. The fund, established in 2020, helps local farmers purchase the land they grow on — in turn improving the collective economic stability and food security of Black residents. Send donations through CashApp to $detroitblackfarmer.


John S. Neely prepares a cocktail at the Monarch Club in Detroit.
John Neely is a bartender working with Split Base Detroit, an organization supporting food industry workers in need.
Stock Detroit

Worker and Restaurant Relief

Local Fundraisers

Dozens of Detroit restaurants have organized fundraisers supporting their staff since novel coronavirus hit Detroit nearly three months ago. Those fundraisers are ongoing and since then many other organizations have sprung up, offering support to hospitality employees in need and opportunities for people to put their money to work directly in the community.

Split Base Detroit: A collaboration between Detroit food and beverage industry workers, Split Base helps to distribute resources like food, diapers, and baby wipes to local hospitality workers in need. The group also tracks other local organizations providing free meals and resources to the food and beverage community. Email splitbasedetroit@gmail.com for information on how to get involved or donate to @melaniemaack on Venmo. Proceeds go directly to the organization.

Soil2Service: This Detroit-based organization is raising funds to provide grants to hospitality workers whose livelihoods have been impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Michigan Hospitality Industry Employee Relief Fund: Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, a trade group, is raising money for hospitality workers who’ve been impacted by the novel coronavirus. Donations can be made online to the relief fund.

Restaurant Strong Fund: Samuel Adams and the Greg Hill Foundation have created a platform to help hospitality workers in crisis across multiple states including Michigan. It’s possible to donate directly to the Michigan fundraiser.

Go Tip ‘Em: Developed by local bar enthusiast and former Eater Detroit writer Nick Britsky, Go Tip ‘Em connects customers directly with food and beverage industry workers in need. “Tip” donations can be made to individual accounts registered through the site and organized alphabetically by state.

Restaurants and Businesses Offering Care Packages

Many restaurants that have remained open through the novel coronavirus crisis have offered pay-it-forward meals and grocery donations, for customers who want to help a person in need as they shop for food. This also helps support restaurants by putting employees to work and paying the business to provide a community service.

Sister Pie: Make donations in $5 increments to the Sister Pie Neighborhood Fund. Money raised helps subsidizes the bakery’s neighborhood discount, provides groceries for low income folks in the West Village area, and replaces the giving portion of the Pie-it-Forward initiative.

Shimmy Shack: Plymouth-based restaurant Shimmy Shack has developed a new non-profit program called Shimmy’s Cupboard, a vegan and gluten-free food pantry that also offers nutrition classes. Donations can be made online.

Pietrzyk Pierogi: This Eastern Market Polish food counter is creating food boxes for carryout and delivery as well as distributing pay-it-forward boxes to restaurant workers in Detroit and Hamtramck. Pick up a pay-it-forward box filled with a dozen pierogi for $16.

Dot’s Market: This local grocery service is providing matching $15 donations during the COVID-19 pandemic and providing produce boxes to families in need.

Cold Truth: Vegan soft serve stand Cold Truth is accepting $12 donations to provide two pints of ice cream to first responders through its Pint It Forward campaign.

Miss Kim: Miss Kim in Ann Arbor is accepting online donations in quantities of $15 to provide free meals to the community.


Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at detroit@eater.com.

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