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SMC Speaker Report: Laura Burton, Forgotten Harvest

Laura Burton serves as Director of Community Engagement at Forgotten Harvest of Oak Park, Michigan. She is a graduate of Central Michigan University and earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan. As our luncheon speaker on August 27th, Laura told us how Forgotten Harvest has been busy driving hunger from our community for almost 30 years.

The mission of Forgotten Harvest is relieving hunger and preventing nutritious food loss. As long as the need exists, no one will be forgotten.

One out of every five persons in metro Detroit faces hunger every day. Our nation of 330 million people has 50 million people who went hungry last year. Laura stated that statistically, 40% of our national food is wasted annually. That’s 70 billion pounds of food. That’s enough food waste to fill the Empire State Building 90 times.  Where is this surplus food that is wasted? Laura said that grocery stores, markets, restaurants, farmers and others contribute their surplus food to Forgotten Harvest. Volunteers collect the surplus and Forgotten Harvest delivers it free of charge to emergency food providers in the metro Detroit area. Their work has since expanded to include Forgotten Harvest Farms, where they grow their own fresh food for those in need.

Volunteers are the creators of this do-it-yourself campaign and donations from supporters are used to manage this surplus. One dollar provides seven dollars’ worth of surplus food. Volunteers may help collect surplus food, repack food at the warehouse, work at the Forgotten Harvest Farm, or help at a special event. For a typical special event such as Arts Beats and Eats in Royal Oak, 60 volunteers are needed at entrance gates to greet people, take tickets, direct pedestrian traffic flow and hand out wristbands. Volunteers will receive free food/drink tickets, bottled water, and a wristband for the entire weekend to enjoy the event! 

Except for their Kid’s Program, volunteers must be at least 12 years of age. All volunteers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Questions regarding volunteering or the Forgotten Harvest Community should be referred to Laura Burton at 248-967-1500 or emailed to

We thank you, Laura, for taking the time to introduce us to Forgotten Harvest.

Reported by George Arsenault

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