Written by: Emily C. Rathod, Individual Giving Manager, Major Gifts

When I started at Forgotten Harvest in the summer of 2021, I was six months pregnant. I was embarking on two new adventures simultaneously: that of a new mother and that of the newest fundraiser at Forgotten Harvest.

By the time I started at Forgotten Harvest, I had wanted to work here for a long time. I found myself checking the career postings often probably at a frequency that was (embarrassingly) too often. You see, I saw the impact that Forgotten Harvest was making on the community. The COVID-19 pandemic brought instability to everyone. Yet, Forgotten Harvest never wavered and continued in the noble fight against hunger and food insecurity which, at that point, was impacting more people than they ever had before. When many places were shutting their doors and ceasing operations, Forgotten Harvest dug deeper to serve the community in a time of extreme need. And because of that, I knew Forgotten Harvest was the place I was meant to be.

I’ve recently reread our Founder, Dr. Nancy Fishman’s book, “Eight Lessons I Learned in the Corners of the Field, The Story of Forgotten Harvest” which tells the history of how Forgotten Harvest came to fruition. I read it during my first week with the organization. After reading it again three years later, it feels different. Now as a mother, I feel things much deeper than I ever have before.

In the beginning chapters, Nancy describes how she had stood in the cold in line amongst other parents to receive food with her small two-year-old daughter clutching onto her leg. Reading those words on the page nearly transported me into her shoes. I can’t even imagine how it must feel as a parent, more specifically as a mother, to experience the despair that comes with not having enough food to feed your children. And unfortunately, this is a reality that many in our community know too well. 

The thing is, there’s enough food in our country to feed everyone, and it’s Forgotten Harvest’s mission to get that food to metro Detroiters in need. The idea that one woman (and mother) had to rescue surplus food to feed a community has been monumental. For the past 34 years, Forgotten Harvest has worked tirelessly to continue that legacy and provide food to feed as many children and families as possible.  

Food doesn’t just nourish our bodies; it also nourishes our souls and provides us with much joy!  

 “… and they [Forgotten Harvest truck drivers] captured the enchanted smiles of children, who for perhaps the first time in their lives were blowing out candles on donated birthday cakes.” When I read this passage in Nancy’s book, I couldn’t help but have both a huge smile on my face, and some sadness in my heart. I am overcome with emotion knowing that there are families that not only don’t have enough food, but don’t have the opportunity to celebrate wonderful and memorable firsts. However, it gives me relief that a place like Forgotten Harvest exists to serve families. Food rescue allows mothers to have cakes to celebrate their children’s birthdays and see those enchanted smiles. That’s why the work of Forgotten Harvest will continue; the food exists, we just need to get it to those in need.  

There is an inexplainable beauty in helping mothers provide for their children.  

“As we all learned, there are also plenty of people who are food insecure in our own backyards. Likewise, children without nutritious food cannot learn well and have a major struggle to rise from poverty.” The work here at Forgotten Harvest will not end until every child and family can have the food that they need. Often times when I’m giving a tour of our Forgotten Harvest Distribution Center, I tell people, “It takes an entire community to feed the community,” and I feel that wholeheartedly. It takes every donor, volunteer, community partner, neighbor, and staff member to make this work possible. All of these kind and loving people play a vital role in helping to feed children and families. It is no small feat to feed neighborhoods, but it is a truly admirable one. Each pickup, each delivery helps to empower our neighbors. The food that we distribute not only feeds families, but it feeds the future.  

Dr. Fishman’s book poignantly concludes with, “This community cannot allow even one child to go hungry at night. This community must ensure that Forgotten Harvest will be here until every last child is fed. We help because we can. We welcome all to join this local hunger relief effort. We continue the work so no one will be forgotten.”

I’ve still got a lot to learn and experience as both a mother and a fundraiser, but what I can tell you is, as a mother, I am so grateful that Forgotten Harvest is here to help and support parents to feed and nurture their children.

I hope one day, when someone asks my daughter where her mom works, she’ll smile and enthusiastically say, “My mom works at Forgotten Harvest! She helps to feed people!”

Thank you for helping to feed people too.