WMSBF aims to cut down food waste

In an effort to promote food recovery among local businesses and reduce food waste in landfills, the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will launch a food waste council consisting of stakeholders in the food production industry.

WMSBF received a seed grant from the Michigan Local Food Council Network for the assembly of the council, which will consist of stakeholders in the West Michigan area. 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.

“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 WMSBF.

WMSBF’s goal in forming the West Michigan Food Recovery Council is to theoretically eliminate the stream of food waste coming into landfills by exploring and implementing recovery options. Food waste recovery follows a stream of viable alternatives, such as feeding the hungry, converting waste into animal feed or using it in compost.

The council will serve commercial and industrial markets in southwest and West Michigan by providing stakeholders access to peer-to-peer education, multidisciplinary networking, technical resources and opportunities for collaboration.

Members include Alison Sutter of SpartanNash, Erik Petrovskis of Meijer, Adam Brent of Cocoa Compost, Dan Tietema of Organicycle, Autumn Sands of Barfly Ventures, Kate Binder of Bell’s Brewery, Jane Feenstra of Gordon Food Service, Kent Miller of Mercy Health, Sarah Chartier of Spectrum Health, Janine Oberstadt of Creative Dining Services, Phillip Greene of Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kristen Wieland of Kent County Department of Public Works, Katie Venechuk of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Dan Gendler of Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College, Christopher Woodruff of Lake Michigan College, and Katie Auwers of Feeding America West Michigan.

Schoonmaker added WMSBF is hopeful to grow and involve more business representatives in the food waste council. Any stakeholders in food production and recovery in West Michigan are welcome and encouraged to participate.

The Michigan Local Food Council Network has provided support for a dozen county food councils across Michigan over the past year. This one 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.

Businesses and institutions account for a slight majority of food waste in landfills nationwide, according to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, but these institutions also present the greatest opportunity for waste recovery.

According to a study conducted by WMSBF, an estimated 1.1 million tons of food waste are disposed of in the state of Michigan. About 132,000 tons are disposed of in West Michigan. The USDA estimates about 40 percent of food purchased in the U.S. ends up in a landfill.

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