Drinking Beer in Michigan Helps Residents Fight Hunger

There are a lot of great things you can do to help people in your area fight hunger. You normally wouldn’t think that drinking beer would be one of them, but that’s now the case if you visit Michigan. Last year, a new organization was started called Hops Against Hunger, which vows to take a part of the revenue from each beer sold and distribute it to food banks around the state.

Seven food banks across Michigan have teamed up with dozens of breweries for the program, with most of the participating watering holes in Michigan’s lower peninsula in metro areas such as Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Detroit and more. All in all, there are more than 40 establishments in Michigan participating in the program. How each brewery collects money is up to them, and some have found interesting ways to participate.

For example, one brewery on the west side of the state is holding a bratwurst cook-off and harvest party, selling tickets to the event where proceeds are donated to their local food bank. Others will be donating a percentage of their beer sales, while some have pledged up to $2 for every single beer sold in their establishments. That can add up quick when the drinks start flowing once locals get out of work and into their closest bar.

The colder months in Michigan can be pretty rough for those that suffer from hunger, and food gets a bit scarce at the food banks. Sean Little of Feeding America West Michigan said “Food banks like ours are asking people to volunteer, donate, collect their elected officials and take a whole host of actions to support our cause,” which includes heading to their favorite breweries. Some of the participants in Hops For Hunger include some of Michigan’s nationally famous breweries such as HopCat, Founders and Bell’s.

Little added that “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.” So far, the Hops Against Hunger program has been able to raise over $20,000 despite not much awareness about the program until now.

With more advertising and awareness, Hops Against Hunger officials are hopeful that the program will be even more successful in the months and years to come. “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,” Carrie Veldman of BarFly Ventures said.

One of the few breweries in the upper peninsula of Michigan is Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette, which has raised enough money to donated several thousand meals already. Adam Robarge of Ore Dock said “We pride ourselves on being a community-minded business and that means lending a hand whenever we can. Quite simply, having access to healthy food is a basic necessity that absolutely no one should have to go without.” The brewery has pledged to donate $1 for each pint sold in their annual event, and will do it again this coming year.

Single night events in some of Michigan’s most popular bars have raised enough money to donate around 7,000 meals for state residents in need from proceeds alone. Smaller bars are offering free beer to people who bring in non-perishable foods, which has resulted in even more meals donated to Hops Against Hunger’s food bank partners. While the program can’t completely eradicate hunger in Michigan for the nearly 1.5 million people who struggle with hunger, there’s been a nice dent made so far.

Little is confident that Michigan’s standing as one of the bigger brewing states will help raise even more awareness. “One of the many reasons people seek out craft breweries is because of the strong local identity. We’ve met so many incredibly generous brewers and restaurant owners who want to get involved in solving hunger locally…we live in the Great Beer State. What a better way to get people to pay attention and get connected?”

If you’re in Michigan or plan on making a trip to one of the famous breweries and want to see which establishments are participating, you can visit HopsAgainstHunger.com to find out how you can help!