Michigan’s food banks are encouraging supporters to raise a glass for hunger relief this September.
The campaign is called Hops Against Hunger, and it unites the state’s breweries and beer geeks with food banks serving those in need. All month, Michigan breweries will be hosting fundraisers to support the work of the state’s seven Feeding America-member food banks. Forty breweries, beer bars and restaurants from metro Detroit to Marquette are taking part.
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“September is Hunger Action Month,” said Sean Little, development associate for Feeding America West Michigan, a food bank based in the Grand Rapids area. “Food banks like ours are asking people to volunteer, donate, contact their elected officials and take a whole host of actions to support our cause. We loved the idea of throwing brewery fundraisers into the mix and hopefully reaching a lot of people who might be totally new to food banking and hunger relief.”
“As we’ve begun building relationships with breweries, we’ve found that it’s an easy sell. They really care about this issue,” Little said.
According to the latest data from Feeding America, 1.49 million people are food insecure in Michigan, meaning they struggle to get enough food to lead a healthy life. That’s 15.1 percent of the population.
Since the Hops Against Hunger initiative kicked off in 2016, it’s raised more than $20,000 to support the food banks serving those people. A dozen establishments took part last year, and that number has risen to 40, showing a growing commitment to hunger relief in the state’s brewing community.
Carrie Veldman, sustainability coordinator for BarFly Ventures, the company behind Grand Rapids Brewing Company and HopCat, says the motivation is simple. “By partnering with local nonprofits such as Feeding America, breweries and bars have the opportunity to invest in the community that has spent time and money investing in them.”
Grand Rapids Brewing Company and all six HopCat locations in Michigan are participating in Hops Against Hunger, each in support of the food bank serving their community.
Veldman says the partnership makes sense, because the food bank model of rescuing good surplus food and putting it to use is closely aligned with BarFly’s own waste-reduction practices. “Food recovery is one of our central values,” she said.
“Here in the U.S., our food waste is estimated at about 40 percent and we’re working to change this within our walls,” Veldman continued. “We’ve started a program at all of our locations where we donate any extra food we’ve acquired from beer dinners or monthly features to our local Feeding America food banks. All food that cannot be donated, like fruit and vegetable scraps and leftovers, is composted, so instead of rotting in a landfill, our food scraps can become nutrient-rich soil!”
Like many Hops Against Hunger participants, each BarFly location will be donating proceeds from one beer throughout the month. HopCat’s brand-new Royal Oak location, for example, will donate $1 from every pint of All Day IPA from Founders Brewing Company to Gleaners Community Food Bank.
Others, like Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer, are organizing one-day events. On Friday, Sept. 22, Greenbush will host their second-annual Harvest Party, featuring live music, a bratwurst-grilling competition and the release of a beer brewed in collaboration with food bank staff.
“We wanted to give breweries the freedom to put their own stamp on it. We’ve seen some breweries come to us with really cool ideas and we love that their events are highlighting the diversity of the craft beer scene in Michigan,” Little said.
The Food Bank of South Central Michigan, for example, is working with the Kalamazoo Brew Bus to organize a pub crawl with several area breweries and beer bars on Sept. 28.
Ore Dock Brewing Company of Marquette, the campaign’s northernmost participant, has been raising money for hunger relief in the Upper Peninsula for years. They will be hosting a Pack the Pub Night on Sept. 21, when $1 from every pint of True North will be donated.
“We pride ourselves on being a community-minded business and that means lending a hand wherever we can,” said Adam Robarge, production and branding manager for Ore Dock. “Quite simply, having access to healthy food is a basic necessity that absolutely no one should have to go without.”
For a complete list of participating breweries, visit HopsAgainstHungerMI.org/Breweries. All media inquiries should be directed to Sean Little at SeanL@FeedWM.org.
Hops Against Hunger Participants
Feeding America West Michigan
Burnt Marshmallow Brewing
Grand Armory Brewing
Grand Rapids Brewing Company
Greenbush Brewing Company
HopCat Grand Rapids
New Holland Brewing Company
North Pier Brewing Company
Ore Dock Brewing Company
Pigeon Hill Brewing Company
Silver Harbor Brewing Company
Terra GR Restaurant
The Livery Microbrewery
The Mitten Brewing Company
Watermark Brewing Company
HopCat Ann Arbor
Food Bank of South Central Michigan
Arcadia Ales Kalamazoo
Brite Eyes Brewing Company
The Distant Whistle
Grand River Brewery
Kalamazoo Brew Bus
Territorial Brewing Company
Food Bank of Eastern Michigan
Loggers Brewing Company
Michigan on Main Bar and Grill
Table and Tap
Tri-City Brewing Company
Gleaners Community Food Bank
Farmington Brewing Company
HopCat Royal Oak
Greater Lansing Food Bank
EagleMonk Pub and Brewery
Ellison Brewery and Spirits
HopCat East Lansing
Lansing Brewing Company