State commits $100,000 to develop plan for reducing food waste in Michigan

The project is set to slice food waste and dish out a lower carbon footprint for the state’s food industry.
Credit: Pixabay

Michigan is putting its money where its mouth is in the fight against food waste, with a $100,000 grant from EGLE set to slice food waste and dish out a lower carbon footprint for the state’s food industry.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) selected the Michigan Sustainable Business Forum’s proposal in a competitive bid to formulate a plan to curtail food waste and carbon emissions in the state. The three organizations will engage with an advisory council of industry stakeholders and national experts to create a “Michigan Food System Waste Reduction Road Map.” Detroit-based Make Food Not Waste, and Massachusetts-based Center for EcoTechnology are sub-grantees on the project.

This grant is being administered by the EGLE’s Pollution Prevention program using Community P2 funds. This is the first time the state has spent that pot of money on food waste.

“EGLE Community P2 funds have funded a range of projects in the past, from Product Stewardship, Sanitary Sewer Overflow Prevention, to Healthcare,” Julie Staveland, assistant division director for EGLE’s Materials Management Division that oversees this funding, told Planet Detroit. “I am making sure that moving forward; the Community P2 funds will be dedicated to projects that tackle food waste reduction. EGLE is investing in this issue because reducing food waste is one of the lowest-hanging fruit we can address to help us reach our climate goals, as identified in the MI Healthy Climate Plan.”

Groups engaged so far include Meijer, Kroger, SpartanNash, Michigan Food Processors Association, Eastern Market, Creative Dining Services, Gordon Food Service, American Culinary Federation, Michigan Grocers Association, and Cherry Capital Foods.

The road map will guide state and local decision-makers toward policies and programs promoting decarbonization by minimizing waste in the food production and distribution sectors. According to an EGLE statement, the project aligns with the objectives in the MI Healthy Climate Plan. The plan recommends that the state commit to a USDA/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency goal of halving food loss and waste by 2030.

“We landfill close to 2 billion pounds of food a year in Michigan. By stopping the landfilling of our food, we can act immediately on the climate crisis, We could change that pretty quickly and easily.” Danielle Todd, founder and executive director of Make Food Not Waste told Planet Detroit. “The tech solutions that aren’t here yet won’t have enough time to work — we need to deploy what’s ready to go as soon as possible. That’s what this roadmap will help us do.”

Todd said EGLE has asked that the organizations focus on source reduction and donation as much as possible, rather than organics recycling. The roadmap will include recommendations for policies, incentives, business actions and public-private partnerships, she added. 

“The roadmap concentrates on farming, food processing, grocery and food service sectors of the food system,” Todd said. “It will be useful for various departments at the state level, local and county governments and nonprofits/businesses working in those sectors.”

Every year, Michigan disposes of over one million tons of food waste through its municipal waste system. This represents the most significant material discarded in the state’s landfills and waste-to-energy facilities. According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 30%-40% of Michigan’s food supply is wasted. The nonprofit Project Drawdown approximates that 8% of global emissions are attributable to food waste, marking food waste reduction as the most significant measure for mitigating climate change.

“Consumers remain the biggest source of food waste in the food system,” Todd said. “Every pound of food that is landfilled roughly equates to a pound of methane released into the air. And with each person landfilling about a pound of food a day, it really adds up. The easiest rule of thumb to stop contributing to the pollution is: buy less, use what you buy, and compost the rest. “

Working sessions will explore production standards, food donation, waste reduction technologies, secondary markets, infrastructure improvements, community awareness, education, and agency collaboration. The discussions will be an opportunity to review current practices and brainstorm solutions to the pressing problem of food waste.

The project team is seeking collaborators to participate in a series of virtual discussions to develop recommendations for cross-sector solutions. Interested parties with experience in various food industry sectors, including agriculture, food processing, retail, service, and logistics, are encouraged to register for these sessions via the Michigan Sustainable Business Forum website.

Staveland said the project aims to identify current best practices in the state and the roadblocks to adopting those best practices in food waste reduction. Implementation funds will be available through the P2 program in the future. “We will be issuing a grant program that will provide funding to address roadblocks once the roadmap is complete,” she said.


Our reporting 

runs deep.

Get the latest local enviro news in your inbox with Planet Detroit.

Scroll to Top