Mission, Values & History


Food Gatherers exists to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes in our community.

We rescue local food and leverage state and national food resources for hunger relief. We lead a network of hunger relief providers and engage the public in the fight against hunger. We create and sustain innovative new food programs in response to emerging needs. We recognize that hunger will not be solved through the provision of food alone, so we advocate for policies and system changes to create an equitable food system.

  • We are committed to providing the best possible service to the community. Service guides all that we do.
  • All Food Gatherers’ actions are based on our commitment to serve people experiencing hunger.
  • We are committed to distributing safe, usable, nutritious, and appealing food.
  • We believe that food is a basic human right.
  • We are committed to and work for equity and an ideal world in which all people have access to food, shelter, meaningful work, dignity, and freedoms.
  • To us, growth is two-fold: a commitment to long-term strategic planning, as well as responsiveness to the needs of the community and to new opportunities for meeting those needs.
  • We recognize and honor the different roles and responsibilities of the staff and the board of directors but view this core group as members of one team working toward a common goal.
  • The same values that guide our service to the community also guide our relations to one another.
  • We believe that everyone can play a role in the fight against hunger.
  • We fight hunger efficiently. We regard the gifts of food, money, and time that we receive as a sacred trust to be administered for the most effective hunger relief possible.
  • We are a fiscally responsible organization.
  • We are committed to honoring diversity in all forms: identities, experiences, and thought. We believe in the value of participation in active dialogue to fulfill our shared mission.

The food bank and food rescue program serving Washtenaw County, Food Gatherers exists to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes in our community. Established in 1988 as Michigan’s first food rescue program and the sixth in the United States, we are the first food rescue program to be founded by a for-profit business, Zingerman’s Delicatessen.

A few days before Thanksgiving in 1988, Food Gatherers’ volunteers borrowed a van and collected 50 pounds of vegetables, bread, milk, and eggs from half a dozen grocery stores and restaurants. The food was quickly redistributed to hot meal programs in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

Today, Food Gatherers is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization governed by a board of directors and operated by 35+ staff members and thousands of volunteers annually. In Fiscal Year 2023, we distributed 7.8 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 6.5 million meals, to our neighbors experiencing food insecurity.

Over time, Food Gatherers learned it wasn’t enough to just provide food and we committed to distributing the types of food that best support health in ways that are readily accessible throughout the community. We were early adopters of best practices in hunger relief, including: creating choice pantries that showcase produce and protein, connecting beneficiaries to SNAP and other federal food programs, and providing innovative food distributions at schools and community clinics. Now we are partnering with healthcare providers to further identify and address food insecurity in our community.

Food Gatherers relies on charitable gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations to fund more than 87% of our annual budget. Each year 94% of all donations directly support our hunger relief efforts in Washtenaw County.

Why is the carrot our favorite vegetable? It’s nutritious, practical, and has deep roots — just as Food Gatherers has deep roots in our community.