Food Banks Innovate Distribution During Pandemic

Food Banks Innovate Distribution During Pandemic


Food Banks around the country have had to innovate their distribution to meet the surge in demand during COVID-19.

APICS Greater Detroit supports supply chain professionals with the information and education they need to remain competitive in today’s world.

Even before the pandemic, food insecurity was a growing problem in the United States. The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, and according to Feeding America more than 50 million Americans will face food insecurity by the end of 2020.

The surge in demand has required innovative strategies to get the food in the hands of those who need it most, including here in Southeastern Michigan. Read more in our latest article below.

Gleaners Community Food Bank, headquartered here in Detroit, operates five distribution centers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties and provides food to more than 500 partner soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and other agencies throughout southeast Michigan. As we come out of the pandemic, it is apparent that certain implications are likely to impact supply chain management efforts over the longer term. Scott Sureddin, a Supply Chain Brain contributor recently shared his thoughts on the three long-term supply chain trends coming out of COVID-19.

Each year, Gleaners distributes more than 45 million pounds of food to neighbors in need! This results in an average of 100,000 meals distributed each day to families in need across our region. Gleaners also provides nourishing food and nutrition education to more than 200,000 children a year. Every dollar donated provides three meals and 92 cents of every donated dollar goes to food and food programs.

Like food banks across the country, Gleaners has seen a surge in demand for food during the pandemic, delivering an additional 11.5 million pounds of food to 325,000 households deeply affected by the crisis. Month after month, their rate of food distribution remains 45% higher than any previous year.

Gleaners has stepped up and developed innovative ways to meet this increased demand and provide food to those in need including:

1. New food distribution sites. 66 drive-up locations were created to operate every other week each seeing an average of 290 households per distribution. Each family receives an average of 36 pounds of nutritious groceries. Households who have never visited an emergency food pantry before were turning to Gleaners for support.

2. Partnerships. Gleaners worked with numerous partners across the five counties to increase donations and set up new distribution sites that were safe in terms of both social distancing and traffic flow.

3. Adapting existing services. Gleaner’s My Neighborhood Mobile Grocery program that saw more demand than ever during the pandemic. The program was adapted to provide seniors safe access to affordable healthy food with all locations providing a no-contact service, pre-order forms and location staff delivering each order right to resident’s door.

4. Increased deliveries where people live. With many Detroit area schools relying on virtual learning this fall, more than 310,000 children might go hungry. The School Food Mobile program became even more important providing more healthy food to school communities throughout the region where they live

5. Pivoting. A favorite word for 2020. Gleaners was reaching new households with mobile distributions, but was still missing others — seniors, homebound patients, pregnant mothers, and individuals with chronic health issues — who were also in need, but weren’t necessarily able to travel to distribution sites. They started reaching out to current and new partners to pivot and figure out a way to get food directly to homes. One of those partners was Focus: Hope and they quickly responded. Per their director, Frank Kubik, “We never shut down, [we] just shifted the business model…We got the word out to the community and began offering curbside pickup and home delivery.”

For more than 40 years, Gleaners Community Food Bank has been a reliable resource for children, families and seniors in their greatest hour of need. Their programs were needed even more during this past year and they have worked hard to innovate their distribution strategies to meet the substantial increases in demand. More information on their services and how you can help can be found on their website at:

Looking for more information on ways to innovate and improve your supply chain management efforts? APICS Greater Detroit is offering the upcoming globally recognized certification class for Certified Supply Chain Professional starting on 12/5.

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