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Posted on Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Minding their peas: Food Gatherers proposes $2.5 million building addition to store produce and protein

By Janet Miller


Food Gatherers employee Dan Calderone, right, and volunteer Jim Wright move a large crate of produce for a produce giveaway last fall at the Peace Neighborhood Center in Ann Arbor.

Angela J. Cesere | file photo

Food Gatherers, the food rescue and food bank program for Washtenaw County, is growing.

The nonprofit last week submitted plans to the Ann Arbor Planning Commission to build an addition that will increase its warehouse and office space by roughly 75 percent. This would allow Food Gatherers to continue its push to provide more fresh produce and protein to the county’s hungry.

Under the proposal, Food Gatherers would build a 12,700 addition to the front and rear of the organization’s building at 1 Carrot Way on the north side of Ann Arbor, north of Dhu Varren Road. There also would be an additional 22 parking spaces.

The project cost, which includes equipment, is $2.5 million, said Eileen Spring, president and chief executive officer of Food Gatherers. The nonprofit already has $1.5 million committed to the project, and will launch a capital campaign to raise the balance, Spring said.

The Planning Commission is on target to consider the request at its Aug. 21 meeting, said planner Chris Cheng, although it has not been officially scheduled yet. Once the proposal receives Planning Commission approval, City Council must approve it before Food Gatherers can move ahead. Spring said she hopes construction will begin in the fall and should take six to eight months.


Food Gatherers is looking for more storage space for its produce and proteins.

Melanie Maxwell I file photo

Most of the addition will accommodate expanded cold and freezer storage space, Spring said. The existing cold/freezer space allows for 32 pallets of storage. The addition would increase that to 264 pallets.

“We have committed to distributing more and more fruits, vegetables and protein, and we have been successful” Spring said. “But we don’t have the infrastructure to support it.” Some 50 percent of the current food distribution is perishable produce and protein, and needs cooler space. Freezer space is even tighter, with Food Gatherers paying for temporary offsite freezer and dry storage space.

Since 2009, Food Gatherers has increased fruit and vegetable distribution by 72 percent, totaling about 200,000 pounds of produce over the past two growing seasons, Spring said. The increase comes from a number of efforts: the on-site garden, encouraging the community to garden for Food Gatherers, partnerships with local farmers and increased spending on produce and protein.

The addition also will include new space for volunteers, with most of the 22 additional parking spaces planned for them. Volunteer ranks have swelled over the years, with a 19 percent increase between 2010 and 2011. There’s been an 82 percent increase in the number of volunteers since the building opened in 2003. There are currently 6,000 volunteers who provide 70 percent of all hours logged at Food Gatherers.

The existing building was designed with an addition in mind, Spring said. Food Gatherers began in 1988 in a former slaughterhouse located at the current site. It was replaced by the current building.

Food Gatherers distributed 5.25 million pounds of food to more than 150 nonprofit programs such as shelters and emergency pantries in 2011.



Mon, Aug 20, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Why does this organization exist? The poor are over weight and have bad diets-studies have shown this and at the women's jail in Washtenaw County, the prisoners don't eat the organic vegetables they grow. So, we have this group that gathers food and feeds the over weight poor?WHY? It sounds like a great idea except the poor in the US are not really 3rd world country poor any more. Perhaps they should concentrate on nutrition education and skip the food! Like Michelle Obama says: we Americans are over weight, that's why she started the "Let's Move" campaign!

Dr. Libert

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

I think things too! My shoes are too tight! Why aren't things like they used to be?

Atticus F.

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

well maybe you should try rational thought. It's all the rage!

Atticus F.

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

I should probably also mention that I help to organize a canned food drive each year that donates the proceeds to Food Gatherers, so people dont think I'm a total crab apple. I just think that the money for this project could be better spent.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Jul 6, 2012 : 10:41 a.m.

atticus, its more than a "walk in freezer". Its 12,500 square feet plus 22 parking spaces. some to much of that 12500 square feet includes commercial freezers and refrigerators. At $200 a square foot with all that cooling I don't think the price is outlandish. And these folks are not a restaurant. Their mission barely resembles a restaurant.

Atticus F.

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

Smart lady, if it costed $2,500,000 to build a walk in freezer, there would not be a single restraunt in operation in the entire world...


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

You should visit their warehouse and you would feel differently. If they don't add freezer and cooler space, they will have to decline tons of fresh food that can help people.


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

HELLO bring the fruit and vegetables to the Farmers market gasoline and collect foodstamps/fresh coupons.


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

WEll that is a wste of Money , First the people should be free to choice there fruit and vegetable and buy what they want ...not what foodgathrer can gather -up..WE need to have our foodstamps/Snap restore and increaese so our GROCERIESSTORE can suply us and all there customer with fresh food..and WE ahave a chioce ..they school and resteraunt is a diffrent deal. WE have riferiderater that Foodgather bought fo us 4 years ago (so we could get MEAT/EGGS) but sofar no meat/eggs.Also foodgathers train young poeple for chefs ..we have two oven in our kitchen but sofar NO COOKS showed UP. needless to say we are forgotten(harvest)?????In 1964 President L.B Johnson sighned "THE WAR ON PROVERTY"Bill .this is the longist WAR on American Soil..(harvest) Beside all this this is the last years for taxable charity deduction thank to GOV.Snyder....lost in the cause..


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

Love the pic of D.C. pulling the pallet. One of the hardest working dudes Ive known. Make them spend some money on motorized pallet jacks.

Atticus F.

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

in my oppinion, 2.5 million dollars is way too much to spend on a storage facility, and that the money could be better spent.

Atticus F.

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

Madaline Borthwick, that 2.5 million dollars could feed alot of people if it were better spent.

Madeleine Borthwick

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Atticus, Tell that to someone who's going hungry!!!!!

Angry Moderate

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

It's hard to help people when you don't have enough freezers to store the food.

Atticus F.

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

They could build a costco for 2.5 million. Also, I mentioned in my earlier post, which was deleted for reasons unknown, that I am also a fan of Food Gatherers. But I had to revise my second posting to a bare minimum, so I forgot to mention that fact the second time around. Also, I do see waste among some of the non-profits in Ann Arbor, that in my oppinion could be better spent helping people.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

2.5 mil is a lot. And I play the second guessing game as much as anybody around here. But Food Gatherers gets a free pass from me. If they think they need it to accomplish their bigger goal I believe them.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

"The nonprofit last week submitted plans to the Ann Arbor Planning Commission...." lets hope the powers that be at every level can fast track the approval and not drag them through months/years of the self justifying bureaucracy they often engage in.


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Wow. Those are impressive numbers. Let's step up people and help them fund this project.


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Congratulations to Food Gatherers!!


Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

Food Gatherers is such a wonderful asset to Washtenaw County. They should be commended for not only tackling hunger, but for tackling it with nutritious food for some of the most vulnerable - our children. I'll be contributing to that second million.

AAPS Student

Thu, Jul 5, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

In the 3rd paragraph, you have two additional. Shouldn't it be there would be an additional 22 parking spaces?