The decisions we make with food can not only determine our personal health outcomes but also impact the health of the planet; our habits around shopping, consumption, storage, and food disposal go far beyond the household. Make Food Not Waste is an organization that has made it its mission to keep food out of landfills and slow climate change through its programs and creative solutions. We spoke to Kate Morgan, Communications Director for Make Food Not Waste, and learned more about how this organization’s efforts help combat climate change while addressing food insecurity in the greater Detroit area.
ES: What is Make Food Not Waste?
KM: We are a non-profit organization located in Detroit. Our mission is to keep food out of landfills. Food waste has huge environmental impacts when it decomposes in landfills as it produces the greenhouse gas methane, contributing to climate change. When we waste food, it affects all of the other inputs that go into food production and legislation.
ES: How serious is food waste in relation to climate change?
KM: There is a non-profit organization called Project Draw Down that ranks issues within the area of climate change. Food waste has consistently been in the Top 5, if not Number 1, throughout the years. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas producer.
ES: Wow! That’s an impactful analogy. So, how do you help people with the first steps in changing their food habits?
KM: The most important thing is helping consumers realize the impact that they do have on multiple levels. We recently learned from ReFED, an organization that tracks food waste data, that 48% of food waste happens at the household level. People have the misconception that all the waste comes from commercial companies or bigger buildings, but the truth is that the biggest impact is happening on the individual level.
ES: What are some resources that you offer?
KM: We offer everything from classes to distribution at Make Food Not Waste. We focus on teaching people how to shop better, make better use of their cooking equipment, stay organized and store properly, and, most importantly, eat mindfully. In addition to these resources, we are best known for collecting food donations from interested organizations and turning their leftover food into truly amazing and nutritious meals.
ES: Tell us more about food donations and distribution!
KM: We have dedicated ourselves to upcycling kitchens and working with them. We take in surplus food and have a team of absolutely incredible professionally trained chefs that turn that surplus into grab-bag meals that we distribute for free out of our location at Jefferson Avenue Presbyerain Church. We recently opened our second location because we are growing so fast! We can now serve over 4,000 meals a week, which is a huge jump from when we had only one kitchen. We can increase our capacity and serve bulk meals to service providers through our bigger kitchen in the Salvation Army building.
ES: It sounds like you must have some great partnerships.
KM: We really do. We have been able to work with several others on promoting policies related to food sustainability. The Food Donation Improvement Act is a federal policy that has made it much easier for restaurants to donate food legally and safely. We also practice what we preach and work with composting organizations regarding whatever waste we produce. And we have partnered with you, Energy Sciences, to improve our home location to be more energy efficient!
ES: We’re so proud of our partnership with you! Your organization does so many incredible things. What are you most proud of?
KM: Too many things come to mind! I will say that our chefs are such an amazing team and truly a fantastic asset to the organization. We recently hosted a reception for the Michigan Healthy Climate Conference – our chefs catered the whole thing, and people were blown away by what they could create from food that would have otherwise been wasted. I’ll also say that it fulfills me to know that, on a day-to-day level, we serve healthy and nutritious food to people who need it. Food is essential to our survival but also to our hearts. It makes us feel like full humans. Knowing that’s something we help give people is why we have our mission.
ES: What’s next for Make Food Not Waste?
KM: We definitely plan to keep growing and taking in more food. We are also taking steps to be much more active in the climate space. We hope to get more recognition for our side of the issue as people who promote food sustainability and address food waste as a major contributor to the problem.
ES: How can people get involved and stay up to date?
KM: We always have volunteer opportunities at our kitchens, which you can read about on the website. We would gladly take help with our kitchen, food prep, organization, and weekly distribution. You can follow us on our Facebook and Instagram at @MakeFoodDetroit. And we are hosting an event at Frame in August. Lindsey Jean Heard coming to do the demo in Hazel Park on cooking with food scraps. You will be able to find the details on our website.
ES: What’s one thing takeaway that you want to share?
KM: What you do with your food in your home matters. It’s so easy to fall into the mindset of “I’m just one person, so what does it matter if I throw away my food?” It does matter. You’re modeling behavior to people around you with your choices related to food and the care of your food. This goes beyond your family and friends; you’re showing your governments, grocery stores, schools, restaurants, and neighborhoods, and beyond your habits, and they make their own decisions on what they see. When you think you can’t make a difference, you’re wrong: you can make all the difference.
If you have an organization you would like to have featured in our ES Community Spotlight series, contact us today!