Food Gatherers was founded in 1988 on Thanksgiving by Zingerman’s employees. They were the first rescue program in Michigan and the sixth in the US. When Food Gatherers receives donations, the food is first sorted by volunteers and then delivered to community programs. The organization’s goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate hunger in Washtenaw County. One out of seven people in Washtenaw County struggle with hunger, and 44,500 people struggling from hunger use food pantries and meal plans. The money raised in this fundraiser has increased greatly since 2009. Between 2009 and 2013, Food Gatherers raised under $10,000 per year; in 2014 they raised around $15,000. In 2018, the fundraiser ended with almost $70,000.
Anne Thomas’ forum uses an incentive based approach to get donations. This year, students have volunteered to take a pie to the face and bake cupcakes — even Thomas has pledged to dye her hair. Thomas cautions her forum against being too overzealous, as the forum has been disappointed in past years with forum members who haven’t followed through on promises such as tattoos and shaved hair.
The forum also petitions family members and friends for donations, and sends teams door to door. Thomas says she tries to make asking for donations as easy as possible so everyone can pitch in. Last year, the forum had 100 percent participation.
The forum is extra motivated this year as they lost to last year’s champion, the Dewoskin forum.
Thomas has been a part of the Food Gatherers donations for 10 years at CHS. She feels that the Food Gatherers part of Multi Culti helps to make the day much more meaningful.
“It [Food Gatherers] has made the multicultural feast day much better since we’ve been doing this,” Thomas said. “Before we started raising money for Food Gatherers, I really felt that that day there was so much waste. I was blown away by how much waste of paper there was. And when we started doing something for the community on that day, for me it has made that day really special. It just is so much more meaningful than just putting up a bunch of decorations. At the end of the day, I walk away and feel like wow, we did something for our community. And I just get goosebumps. I really feel like I can get behind this day because of our fundraiser. It makes it so much more meaningful to me.”
This year, Maneesha Mankad’s forum has set their goal at $4,000, previous years they have raised about $3,400. To reach this goal, students in her forum have emailed relatives asking for money, put up donation pages on Facebook and some students in CET put out a jar at the School of Rock to collect money. In Mankad’s forum there are 23 students participating in the fundraiser by making individual pages to raise money. Mankad had encouraged her forum to feel more comfortable asking for money for this fundraiser.
“I always want to believe we will reach our goal,” Mankad said. “I will not give up until [the fundraiser is over.]”
Courtey Kiley’s forum also uses a fairly new incentive based approach. Kiley started to use the method 3 years ago after noticing that other teachers were having success with it. She questions the motives behind it sometimes, but recognizes that in the end it comes down to helping people. This year, Kiley agreed to get a tattoo of the forum’s choice (with a few restrictions involving content) if they hit $10,000. She does not believe that they can get $10,000 but says that whatever they get will be good and helpful. Kiley’s forum two years ago reached the $5,000 that she had sent as the benchmark for her getting a tattoo. She got it, but it took two more years.
Last year, the forum reached $5,000 and Kiley gave forumette Emilio Uribe a new haircut that involved four puff balls on his head.
Kiley has been teaching at Community for 12 years and has been a forum leader for around six years. The Food Gatherers part of Multi Culti is her favorite part of the day.
“I think I’ve cried at every single ceremony, even when in the beginning we raised $3,000 as a school or something like that,” Kiley said. “I feel like it’s really nice to do something for our community and we’re helping, not just people that are food insecure in the community, but some kids and families that are in the school. It’s giving back to people who live here. It is the best thing that we do all year.”
Her forum has never won, but her biggest goal is to have everyone contribute. Her forum members share what they are planning on doing for fundraising to the forum every year to encourage people to go above and beyond.
A fundraising idea that sticks out in her head is a time when two forum members took a pickup truck and collected cans and bottles to return. They made almost $700.
Food gatherers has implemented two new Zingerman’s gift card prizes. The first is for money raised by the most sources from one student. The second is for the most creative way a student raised money. Neither of these awards depend on how much the student raised, there is a separate Zingerman’s gift card award for the student that raises the most money. The forum that raises the most money receives a forum party. Anyone can get a Food Gatherers hat by raising over $250 and anyone who raises over $500 gets a t-shirt.