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Hugh Mahler’s impact at Forgotten Harvest (FH)—one of the nation’s largest food rescue organizations—has made him a staple in food security efforts in Southeast Michigan, especially throughout the pandemic.
Food insecurity disproportionately strikes underserved communities and compromises educational outcomes, job performance and seniors’ health and cognition. Food insecurity is a major issue in Southeast Michigan communities; the USDA estimates that nearly 12% of households in MI were food insecure over the 2018-2020 period. After retiring from his professional career as a business owner, Hugh volunteered initially in the heart of FH’s business and assured that each recipient of FH’s food received carefully packed food products. Hugh has also assisted with data entry and food agency visitations, helped within the warehouse and on food rescues, and more. Many of the volunteers at FH’s partner agencies are also recipients of the food, so Hugh proposed ways that FH’s organization could continue to enhance its services. Whatever department is in the most need, Hugh is there to help.
Hugh’s most recent volunteer project, “Harvest Hero” is a stellar example of his volunteer leadership and hands-on work to support FH’s mission. In July 2019, Hugh joined another volunteer, Bob Parrish to create the program. They proposed that trained volunteer teams pick up donated food to help support people facing hunger. The Harvest Hero volunteers pick up the food at businesses and deliver it directly to designated partner agencies. Hugh works with FH’s staff to manage the routes, help recruit volunteer teams, and pick up food as hands-on Harvest Heroes. Together, Harvest Heroes has rescued and delivered 480,000 lbs. of food, or about 400,000 nutritious meals. Hugh’s insight, leadership, and hands-on work make a difference every day for the people and agencies FH serves. He brings his past business experience and effectiveness to support and provide inspiration and hands-on support to FH’s staff – all actions that benefit tens of thousands of people facing hunger. Hugh’s leadership during the pandemic has contributed significantly to community awareness and support of FH’s mission as the need rapidly escalated. Outside of FH, Hugh also has volunteered with Boys and Girls Clubs, Cristo Rey High School, World Medical Relief, Horizons Upward Bound, and Challenge Detroit.
“I came from a family that instilled volunteering and giving back at an early age,” Hugh said. “Throughout my high school and adult years, I have enjoyed the experience of volunteering and serving.”