At one point, the ingredients at Detroit's Upcycling Kitchen in the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church may have ended up in the trash. Instead, chef Shanel DeWalt and volunteers are turning food waste into free nutritious meals for the community.
“There is a direct link between landfilled food and a hotter planet,” Danielle Todd, founder and executive director of the local nonprofit advocacy group Make Food Not Waste, said. “Decomposing food in landfills releases methane, a powerful gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. And because we throw away so much food into the garbage, we’re essentially constantly pumping methane into the atmosphere.”
Organizations like Make Food Not Waste, which operates Upcycling Kitchen, a food distribution manned by professional chefs who prepare 1,000 meals each week, are seeing increased need for provided meals — with less food resources available to prepare said meals.
One food issue that truly defines us in the United States is the amount of it that we waste daily. The U.S. is the global leader in food waste, with Americans discarding nearly 40 million tons of food every year. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Founded in 2017 by Danielle Todd, Make Food Not Waste is at heart an environmental organization whose impetus is twofold – first to prevent food from going into landfills to help save the climate, and second to make use of this food by feeding people who need it.
New this year, Make Food Not Waste partnered with Food Rescue US – Detroit to be the first organization in the US to offer The PLEDGETM. This pledge is part of an international certification system that instructs restaurants, hotels, and other institutions to rethink the food they waste.
People eat a lot of food in the U.S. In fact, the average citizen ate 1,996 pounds of food in 2021. Composting even half of that would reduce methane emissions, help the food supply, and cut agricultural water needs significantly.
In the food business, less is more. “I learned very early on in my culinary career, the less waste you create, the more revenue you can create, if you’re creative,” Chef Omar Anani of Detroit restaurant Saffron De Twah, a 2022 James Beard finalist, said.
A handful of chefs are cooking up holiday cheer at Marygrove College for a number of families who could use a helping hand. "A lot of folks don’t know they’re loved and this is an act of love," said Chef Phil Jones.
This Christmas it’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have, that often we take for granted the things we do have. “Before this we were fine. I was fine, I was making good money," said Detroit single mother of three Jeanetta Riley. "But this right here? This pandemic? We’re not fine right now.”
The NRDC Food Matters team is excited to announce the next phase of our work to reduce food waste in cities. We are expanding the Food Matters Regional Initiative into the Great Lakes region with the goal of furthering larger-scale change related to food waste at a regional level.
The business of getting food on our plates, and the paths it takes to get there, have been disrupted by COVID-19 in ways that require flexibility and adaptation at all levels of the industry. This month’s Crain’s Michigan Business examines how that is playing out in food transportation, restaurant business models and even in food waste.
Todd points out that most produce rescued by Make Food Not Waste and their partners are plant-based, meaning that each meal is loaded with the nutrients that people need and often miss in their diets. She adds that producing an entire meal mainly from reclaimed plant-based food demonstrates that delicious and nutritious food is within reach, whatever your economic situation.
We’re Make Food Not Waste–a nonprofit organization working to keep food out of landfills and slow climate change by creating lasting solutions to food waste through education, food upcycling and advocacy.