West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum has received a seed grant from the Michigan Local Food Council Network to promote food recovery among local businesses and institutions through the creation of a new multidisciplinary council of food waste stakeholders.
The Western Michigan Food Recovery Council will serve commercial and industrial markets in West and Southwest Michigan, principally Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Allegan and Berrien counties, with a particular emphasis on large grocery operations and the commercial and institutional food service operations that account for an estimated 48% of food waste landfilled in Michigan, according to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. The council will provide access to peer-to-peer education, multidisciplinary networking, technical resources, and opportunities for collaboration.
“There is an enormous economic and environmental value lost to waste within local food systems that could be retained with efforts to promote less-wasteful, money-saving practices among businesses and institutions,” said Daniel Schoonmaker, Executive Director of West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. “We can retain value through reuse options that feed the hungry or animals, through waste minimization, and the creation of marketable compost products and services.”
A recent WMSBF study found that Michigan disposes of an estimated 1.1 million tons of food waste through its municipal waste stream each year, the single largest source of material disposed in the state’s landfills and waste-to-energy facilities. West Michigan disposes of an estimated 132,000 tons of food waste, while Southwest Michigan disposes of an estimated 106,000 tons of food waste. Nationally, the USDA estimates that as much as 40% of food purchased is waste. Business and institutions generate a slight majority of food waste, according to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, and offer the most opportunity for recovery improvement.
The council will be facilitated by WMSBF in partnership with GreenMichigan.org and the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Grand Valley State University.
Founding council members include representatives from SpartanNash, Meijer, Cocoa, Organicycle, Barfly Ventures, Bells Brewery, Gordon Food Service, Mercy Health, Spectrum Health, Creative Dining Services, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent County Department of Public Works, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Secchia Institute at Grand Rapids Community College, Lake Michigan College, and Feeding America West Michigan.
The Michigan Local Food Council Network is a program of the Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) at Michigan State University. It has provided support for a dozen county local food councils across Michigan over the past year. WMFRC is the first council in the network organized around a specific issue, and will collaborate with other network councils in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Kalamazoo and Berrien counties.
“Our goal is to strengthen the network of food councils across Michigan, and the WMFRC will fill a unique space in the state’s food council landscape,” said Liz Gensler, co-coordinator of the Michigan Local Food Council Network and Outreach Specialist at CRFS. “We see great potential for WMRFC to impact food recovery innovation both locally as they work alongside councils in West Michigan and across Michigan as they share learnings and the tools they develop through the network.”