Rob Streit JN Intern

West Bloomfield boy raises nearly $20,000 for Forgotten Harvest.

Most bar and bat mitzvah youth are rewarded after a long journey of study with a large celebration. Lavish dinners, banquet halls filled with friends, family and well-wishers are the norm. Guests typically choose to show their affection for the bar or bat mitzvah with gifts — often in the form of a check.

Morgan Reifler, son of J.J. and Amy and brother of Madison, wanted his bar mitzvah at Temple Israel to have a different meaning from most. The West Bloomfield 13-year-old asked friends and family to celebrate his coming of age by making donations to a local nonprofit in lieu of traditional gifts.

J.J. Reifler, Morgan’s father, agreed to match donations from the May 5 event.

The beneficiary of Morgan’s gifts is Forgotten Harvest. “I wanted to help people who don’t have food,” Morgan says. “So much food goes to waste.”

The Reifler family donates money to Forgotten Harvest.Morgan and his father raised nearly $20,000 for the nonprofit, which translates into about 80,000 meals for people facing food insecurities. According to Forgotten Harvest, $1 donated equals $7 worth of groceries, giving the Reiflers’ gift an impact of $140,000.

Morgan, who attends Walnut Creek Middle School, says the experience gave him a sense of pride. “It made me happy to help other people. Not everyone has the same resources as I do,” Morgan says.

Oak Park-based Forgotten Harvest was founded in 1990 and specializes in “rescuing” food from restaurants, grocery stores, farms and other sources. The organization collects from various donor locations and delivers to “emergency food providers” in Metro Detroit. These include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, senior centers and group homes. Forgotten Harvest rescued more than 45 million pounds of food last year.

Tim Hudson is the chief development officer for Forgotten Harvest. “The funds raised by Morgan and his family and friends will support the mission and core food rescue program of Forgotten Harvest,” he said in a statement. “By supporting critical program costs associated with rescuing fresh surplus food from 800 food donor sites and then delivering this food to more than 250 recipient agencies throughout Southeast Michigan, this support will help Forgotten Harvest distribute nutritious food for 80,000 meals for thousands of food insecure children, families and seniors in our community, or the equivalent of $140,000 worth of groceries.”

One in six people lives in poverty in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, according to Forgotten Harvest. The Detroit Food Policy Council found in a 2017 study that 48 percent of Detroit households are considered food insecure. The council also found that 40 percent of Detroit households are enrolled in the SNAP food assistance program.

J.J. says, “I wanted to teach him that you can help other people by giving your time and money.”

The Reiflers spent the Saturday after Morgan’s bar mitzvah volunteering at Forgotten Harvest’s Oak Park facility. “We spent the afternoon repackaging over 14,000 cucumbers,” J.J. says. “It was a neat experience.”

The Reiflers want Morgan’s donation to encourage others to open their hearts, as well as their wallets.

Morgan plans to attend camp this summer at Greenwoods in Decatur, Mich. He will also take a trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., with his baseball team the N.F.W.B. Cobras to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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