Taste, not waste 

Forgotten Harvest may be best known for the striking cornucopia logo that appears on the food bank's trucks. But the organization's work is more interesting: Formed in 1990 to battle both hunger and waste, the group collects surplus food from all over metro Detroit, including grocery stores, restaurants, caterers and farmers and wholesale food distributors. Instead of being carted to a landfill, this food is delivered free of charge to emergency food providers in the area. We caught up with their communications director, Monica Luoma, for a quick chat.

Metro Times: Forgotten Harvest is a familiar name in Detroit. I know that you are involved in feeding the needy, but I'd like to know what that involves. How does it all happen?

Monica Luoma: Forgotten Harvest is metro Detroit's only mobile food rescue organization. What that means is we go out five or six days a week and we rescue perishable foods. That's our focus. The USDA reports that one-quarter of the food that's produced in this country is wasted. That equates to 96 billion — with a "b" — pounds of food. We have people in our own community who can't put food on their table for their children. So there is some disconnect there. It's just a question of finding the mechanism to get that food onto the tables of the people who need it. It's not necessarily homeless people we're talking about. These are people who are one or two paychecks away form becoming homeless. These are people who are putting in 40 hours a week at a pay scale that's not allowing them to supply basic needs to their families. These are senior citizens who are on fixed incomes, who have to make a decision between paying the heat bill or buying a bag of groceries. We service 135 emergency food providers in metro Detroit. Our region is the tri-county area. That's where we rescue food. That's where we deliver food. Our trucks are our mobile mechanism. We have scheduled routes with over 375 food donors. We rescue the food in the morning and that afternoon the food is delivered to the agencies. We don't warehouse it. It is perishable. On the truck. Off the truck. Last year we rescued over 8 million pounds of food.

MT: How do particular types of food become available to you?

Luoma: Let me give you the banana example. At 8 o'clock in the morning you go to the banana table at Kroger's. There is a beautiful array of y