Over the past year we’ve taken you to many of Detroit’s hidden gems; architecture, art, food, all types of beauty. Today we’d like to introduce you to a gem whose beauty lies in its accomplishments instead of its aesthetics. Hidden among a bevy of industrial buildings on Beaufait St in Detroit sits Gleaners Community Food Bank. Founded in 1977 Gleaners was among the first food banks in the country. The goal was to solicit surplus food, store it safely and distribute it to local agencies that provide to the hungry of our communities. Gleaners helps our neighbors in need by giving them access to high quality, healthy food. Here are some amazing facts of what Gleaners accomplished in 2011: 94,997 children were fed and educated through children’s programs, 7.9 million pounds of fresh produce was distributed to the community, 26 Client Choice pantries supplied 5.7 million pounds of food, absolutely incredible! Very important to know: Of every dollar donated 94 cents is spent directly on food and food programs. Only 6% is used for operation costs.
We arrived at the massive distribution center for a fundraiser, once inside, we took a peek around. The interior is designed to look like the great outdoors where our food is grown and raised; walls are painted in pretty scenes. Canned goods are stacked high on pallets then shrink wrapped. Rows and rows of food are organized by numbers and letters marked on walls. In another section of the warehouse, signs hang from the ceiling identifying the company that has donated the food in that area. Everything a family needs for a healthy meal can be found here.With canned goods in hand, we rode the elevator up to the event; Wayne State University Press was celebrating the launch of the book “Coney Detroit“. Immediately off the elevator were displays about Gleaners and the wonderful things they do for the community. Each guest was asked to bring either three canned goods or a donation of $3, the total collected for the evening was 411 lbs of canned goods and $924.00 which provided a total of 3,084 meals, awesome!
We made our way into the room where all the activity was taking place; a slide show of mouth-watering coneys filled a screen. Around the perimeter of the room were coney stands representing National, American and Kerby Coney Island; lines formed from each table. The back of the room offered bags of Better Made Chips in several varieties, oh how I love the Salt & Vinegar. What better way to wash down a dinner of Detroit’s finest offerings than with an icy cold can of Faygo pop! Large round tables filled the space, we grabbed a seat and demolished our food. As we wandered around the room we paused at the large windows that overlook Earthworks Urban Farm; soon volunteers will begin the planting that will provide fresh vegetables for those in need. At the front of the room Katherine Yung and Joe Grimm sat at tables signing their book Coney Detroit and answering any questions one may have. Photographers who contributed to the book were also on hand to sign books, answer questions and some even had mouth-watering photos of coney dogs available for purchase.
By now you may be asking, so what exactly is Coney Detroit? Written by Detroiter’s, it is a book that plays homage to all things coney; from the hot dogs and chili topping to the men and women responsible for concocting these delicious dogs. The preface of the book begins,”Detroit is the heart of the Coney Nation, as you are about to see. Nowhere else in the world will you find as many coney island restaurants, as many ways to eat coneys, or as many people who love them.”. I can’t argue with that! The book takes us across Detroit and across Michigan introducing us to over 18 different coney island restaurants in Detroit, Flint, Jackson, Port Huron on beyond. It is both fun and informative. Warning: Do not look at this book when you are hungry, it will send you out the door and to your favorite coney island after only a few pages; come to think of it, I think it will have the same effect even if you’re not hungry! While the book feeds our love of coneys, the revenue from this book will be donated to Gleaners Community Food Bank, so in turn, helping to feed others.
We capped off the evening with a stop at Motor City Brewing Works on Canfield, what better way to follow-up a couple of coneys than with a nice cold local beer. Crowded as usual, we managed to find a couple of empty seats at the bar and enjoyed a beer. The variety of products offered continues to grow, from flagship varieties like Honey Porter and GhettoBlaster to the seasonal Corktown Stout. The Cass Farm Series includes Hard Cider and Pumpkin Ale. The Muscle Series is automotive themed; Old Gear Oil, 90W-40, 120W-60 and Motor City Ale, the labels are as cool as the beer! The Elixer Fixers are unique blends of fermented fruit juices produced in their farmhouse style winery, labels are decorated with gears. In fact, things like gears wrenches, headers and blowers show up on labels throughout the product line; after all this is the Motor City!