headshot of Adrian Lewis
The Oak Park-based food rescue organization Forgotten Harvest has named Adrian Lewis, 50, of Washington Township, as the new CEO. Provided by Forgotten Harvest.

Forgotten Harvest has named a new CEO to lead the Oak Park-based food rescue organization who knows first hand what it’s like to experience food insecurity.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

Adrian Lewis joined Forgotten Harvest last week, replacing an interim leader and former CEO Kirk Mayes, who departed following eight years in the role. The nonprofit selected Lewis — who comes from Meijer Inc. where he served as market director for the Detroit, Flint and Cincinnati regions — after a nationwide search.

Lewis, 50, of Washington Township, has admired Forgotten Harvest from afar, having volunteered and partnered with the nonprofit on food rescue efforts in his previous role, he said. He plans to continue working with existing donors, while adding more volunteers and agencies to meet the need in the community.

“We have to do more and we will do more,” Lewis said.

Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, his family had half an acre of backyard space that served as a community garden, filled with tomatoes, collard greens, cabbage, squash and turnips. They canned produce, too. Neighbors would drop by and they didn’t need to ask permission.

“The community knew that they could come over and grab some things that they needed,” he said.

As the oldest sibling, he comes from a big extended family and recalls his personal experience with food insecurity.

“There were times that we had to share food and we had to really ration it out … I could recall my parents insisting that us kids, we eat first. And I didn’t think about it until later — I never saw them eating on some days, or eating very little,” he said.

He worked as a produce clerk at a grocery store, not only helping put food on the table for his family, but learning how to merchandise and picking up on the nutritional values of fruits and vegetables.

“What really drives me is that I’m able to do this within the communities that I live, work and serve,” Lewis said, who has lived in Michigan for a decade.

Lewis worked at Meijer Inc. since 2010, where he was responsible for teams at 12 stores in metro Detroit. In 2013, he led the project for Meijer’s first supercenter in Detroit on Woodward and Eight Mile. Before that, he worked at Rite Aid Corp. and Albertsons Companies. He earned an executive MBA degree from Howard University.

“Adrian is a talented leader with a proven track record in strategic oversight, stakeholder engagement and team development to effectively guide our rapidly evolving organization in addressing increased community need,” said Randy Kummer, Forgotten Harvest board chairman, in a news release. “With his leadership and the support of the Forgotten Harvest team and all of our partners, we are poised to continue our mission and make an even greater impact in the years to come.”

Forgotten Harvest has been around since 1990 and serves Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Last year, the nonprofit collected more than 42 million pounds of food from hundreds of locations, such as grocery stores, markets, restaurants, farmers and wholesale food distributors. 

Rescued food is delivered for free to emergency food providers across metro Detroit. Forgotten Harvest works with 84 pantry partners in Detroit and about 69% of households in Detroit were food insecure, according to the Detroit Food Policy Council. 

Forgotten Harvest serves 750,000 people annually — a number that soared past 1 million in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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