Zero hunger, zero waste
Food insecurity doesn’t just affect unemployed individuals and those living in low-income communities. That’s a common misconception. It’s an issue for working families — and for the business community overall.
“Even in the wealthiest communities, you still have families struggling to make ends meet,” said Gerry Brisson, director of Gleaners Community Food Bank. “Forty-seven percent of the people who get help from a food bank or food rescue are employed. You’ll find kids getting free and reduced lunch, breakfast, an after-school snack or dinner in every single public or charter school.”
Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency reports we don’t eat more than 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S., and we discard more than 37 million tons of food annually.
These staggering statistics encouraged The Kroger Co. to establish Zero Hunger Zero Waste, a program designed to eliminate waste companywide and help eliminate hunger in the 35 states in which it operates by 2025. The plan includes:
- Creating a $10 million innovation fund;
- Donating 3 billion balanced meals; and
- Joining forces with thousands of nonprofits, including Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest, to make it happen.
“The reality is we operate businesses in Michigan, and people are hungry in Michigan. Oakland, Wayne and Macomb are three counties that are among the top most food insecure in the country,” said Rachel Hurst, corporate affairs manager at Kroger.
In October, Kroger partnered with Crain Content Studio, the marketing storytelling arm of Crain’s Detroit Business, to gather experts from government, nonprofits and retail to talk about solving the problems of hunger and food waste.
Leveraging composting resources
James Rigato, executive chef and owner of Mabel Gray Kitchen and co-owner of Doug’s Delight, both in Hazel Park, regularly witnesses uneaten food. While restaurants try to waste as little food as possible, he said you can’t control what people order.
“We’re a very consumer-driven society,” Rigato said. “Plenty of people over-order because they want to taste everything.”
At the same time, nearly 95 percent of discarded food goes to landfills, which doesn’t just divert it from the hungry but also impacts growers. Scientists contend that landfills release greenhouse gasses from decomposing organic materials, cause groundwater pollution, harmfully impact soil fertility and negatively impact health, explained Pashon Murray, co-founder of Detroit Dirt.