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Kirk Mayes, chief executive officer of Forgotten Harvest, is expected to remain in his role through the end of the year. With Mayes at the helm, the food rescue organization opened a new, 78,000-square-foot location in February on W. Eight Mile in Oak Park. (Photo by Forgotten Harvest)

Kirk Mayes, CEO of the Metro Detroit food rescue Forgotten Harvest, is leaving the organization but will remain in his role through the end of the year.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

The Oak Park-based nonprofit has started a nationwide search for the next CEO, according to a Thursday news release.

“This change in leadership is an excellent opportunity for Forgotten Harvest to deepen the sophistication and impact of the mission in metro Detroit,” Mayes said in the release. “Forgotten Harvest has a terrific vision for the community to make a real difference in reducing food insecurity in metro Detroit.”

Mayes is the recipient of this year’s Eleanor Josaitis Unsung Hero Award, part of the Detroit Free Press and Metropolitan Affairs Coalition’s Shining Light Awards, honoring individuals making contributions to regional cooperation, progress and understanding in southeast Michigan. 

When asked earlier this month about his next steps, Mayes, 46, told the Free Press that he doesn’t know what his future holds, but he wants to keep helping people and wondered how far he could spread his wings and “bring value in a space bigger than Detroit.”

“I can see myself doing something that could impact a lot of people in more than just the space that I’ve grown up in,” he said.

Mayes has worked at various nonprofits, including Communities in Schools and the Brightmoor Alliance. He spent a few months working for the City of Detroit before joining Forgotten Harvest as CEO in 2014. 

In May, Forgotten Harvest moved to a larger 78,000-square-foot facility, with the goal of providing more healthy food to families and seniors and ramping up operations.

The previous 30,000-square-foot facility accommodated 35 million pounds of food annually but the need was closer to 70 million a year. The new food rescue and distribution center on Eight Mile Road in Oak Park has capacity for 90 million pounds of food. 

The nonprofit plans to pilot a community nutrition center to store goods, where people can “shop” for items they want and get help from social service partners. Construction is slated to begin in 2023.

Forgotten Harvest has been around since 1990. The organization serves 750,000 people annually but during the COVID-19 pandemic that went up to over 1 million in 2020.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated when Forgotten Harvest was founded.

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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