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Downriver Food Pantries Help Fill a Vital Need During COVID-19 Crisis

As the COVID-19 crisis creates job loss and economic uncertainty, Downriver food pantries are operating drive-through pickup sites to meet an increasing need for food from residents with strained resources.

Waynewright Community Meals, also known as the Wyandotte Soup Kitchen, at 98 Superior Blvd. in Wyandotte, is no longer serving a sit-down meal inside, but is providing carry-out meals, with some additional shelf-stable food items for people, from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday.

On April 1, clients received a surprise that wasn’t a prank: Big Boy Restaurants, with a matching donation from Sam Darany, the former owner of the Wyandotte Big Boy, dropped off 50 Big Boy signature sandwiches for its guests.

Jon Maurer, vice president of marketing for Big Boy Restaurants, who delivered the food, said Big Boy’s strong connections with the community for the past 84 years makes it second nature to give back to the community.

“We are partnering with local businesses and going to locations like the Wyandotte Soup Kitchen, to give back to people in need,” he said. “Right now is a critical time for anybody in need of meals.”

Maurer said Big Boy is also delivering food to medical personnel through its Health Care Heroes initiative.

“Three weeks ago, we were all just doing our own thing, and this has just caught us all by storm,” he said. “We have really rallied our team.”

Maurer said most people have a memory tied to a Big Boy restaurant.

“This is how we make new stories, by giving back to the community,” he said.

Volunteer Sarah Pettigrew said Waynewright Community Meals has been humbled by the outpouring of support by entities like Big Boy.

“Not only does it bolster our spirits, but it is helping our food supplies and budget stretch much further,” she said. “When folks can’t find resources elsewhere, our numbers tend to go up, with more families facing food insecurities.”

Pettigrew said to keep volunteers and guests safe, a waiting line outside has temporary markings to encourage people to stay a safe distance apart while waiting to receive food. In addition, volunteers place items on a table, then step back, maintaining distance with attendees.

“We are modifying our meals to make them more portable,” she said. “We have had to limit some choices, but we have tried to make up for those aspects by giving our guests additional commodities, so they have a few more things to eat at home.”

Pettigrew said generosity from restaurants like Big Boy, which is facing its own challenges with the current limitations, reminds people that normalcy, and simple things like sitting down in a restaurant to enjoy a meal, will return.

“I hope when these rough times are over, people will remember businesses like Big Boy, who put themselves on the line, and spread cheer and kindness,” she said. “We would not be able to operate were it not for the kindness and help from the community.”

People wishing to donate to Waynewright Community Meals may call Pettigrew at 734-258-0325 for a current wish list of needs.

Fish and Loaves Community Food Pantry, 25670 Northline Road, in Taylor, has also switched to outside food distribution, to limit contact during the coronavirus contagion, with distribution available 9 am to noon, and 1 to 7 p.m. Monday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

The pantry initiated drive-up service last week for the thousands of people with food insecurity which it helps.

Mary Hollens, executive director, praised the volunteers who keep it running, and who are adapting to the necessary logistical changes with the food distribution.

She said they recently helped 140 seniors who drove up to receive food through The Emergency Food Assistance Program. She said it is important to help seniors who are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 exposure risk they would otherwise experience in a grocery store.

Hollens said the food pantry is also helping low income families who need additional food for their children, who would normally receive free meals at school.

“Child hunger remains a priority and a formidable challenge for us,” she said. “We are blessed to receive the help of great supporters donating food and other resources.”

To learn more about making a donation to Fish and Loaves, call 734-992-6284 or go to

Bread of Life food bank, at Faith Christian Assembly, 25201 W. Outer Drive, in Melvindale, doubled its normal food distribution, from 150 to 300 families on March 28, during its monthly distribution. It operates from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of the month. The food bank also converted its operation to a drive through mode to help limit person-to-person contact.

The Reverend Ray Bucciarelli said procuring enough food to distribute is not its most urgent need.

“Receiving food isn’t the challenge,” he said. “It is having supplies, like gloves and face shields, that has been most difficult. Our volunteers are using every safety precaution for them and their guests.”

Donations to Bread of Life can be made through its website, Donors may also use Text to Give, at 206-859-9405, by texting “FCAGive.” There is also a secure drop box for monetary donations at the food bank’s physical location, 25201 W. Outer Drive in Melvindale. Indicate on the envelope that the donation is for “Bread of Life.”

Food and clothing donations cannot be accepted until the office is able to safely reopen to the public.

Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, which help supply both Fish and Loaves, and Bread of Life, also helps other Downriver food banks.

Gleaners will be at St. Cyprian Catholic Church, 13249 Pennsylvania Road, in Riverview, from 10 to 11 a.m. April 15, and will distributes food at the site every other Wednesday.

Two Southgate churches also distribute food with help from Gleaners. Bethel Baptist, 13330 Trenton Road, distributes food from noon to 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday and 9 to 11:45 a.m. on Saturday. Christ the King Lutheran Church, 16700 Pennsylvania Road, distributes food from 3:15 to 4 p.m. on Thursday.

In Trenton, Gleaners works with Southpoint Community Christian Church, 5699 Fort Street, which distributes food 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, and St. Philip Lutheran Church, 1790 Fort Street, which distributes food from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Big Boy Restaurant Group, LLC

Big Boy, an iconic American restaurant brand founded in 1936, is celebrating 84 years in 2020, with a continued focus of shared family experiences around food and supporting communities. Big Boy Restaurant Group, LLC is based in Southfield, Michigan. The company operates and manages franchises of Big Boy, Bob’s Big Boy and Big Boy Burgers, Shakes and Breakfast restaurants in Michigan, Ohio, California and North Dakota.


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