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Food waste is a problem in Michigan, but it can be helped

Riley Connell

Food waste has become an increasing issue in Michigan, but in Cadillac, they’re making it solvable

Food waste is a growing epidemic across Michigan. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the average household wastes $1,500 of food every year.

What exactly is food waste?

Feeding America West Michigan Communications Manager Molly Kooi said there's multiple levels of food what, but essentially, it's good food that gets thrown away. It can be anywhere from a box of Pop Tarts to pounds food from grocery store chains.

At the Feeding America Cadillac branch, Kooi said this issue is being managed for the most part. In 2020, they rescued nearly 450,000 pounds of food, which is equivalent to 375,000 meals.

"There's definitely instances where food is wasted, like in home and in restaurants, but when you're talking about, you know, the food system overall, a lot of food is being rescued at this point," she said. "Of course, there's food that we have not yet, you know, connected with all of the farmers and all of the manufacturers. There's food that's slipping through, but we're capturing a lot of it."

Although the general belief is that most food waste happens in the home, Sheril Kirshenbaum, a Michigan State University research scientist, said that it's an equal contribution from both households and corporations.

“The truth is, it's both. It's how we shop. It's how cheap some of our food is, and the ways which at times we hoard it and well, you know, a single individual, it might not seem like that much," she said. "Households across the country that exhibit the same kind of behavior, that really, really adds up, but then you also think again of the amount of foods that supermarkets toss that’s perfectly fine.”

In order to reduce food waste, Kirhsenbaum said don't go to the grocery store hungry. It can cause people to overbuy, which then leads to hoarding. People can also donate their unused foods to a local foodbank like Feeding America.

Hoarding in particular was an issue at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Kooi said it's no longer a problem.

"I think initially people were buying more. I know that was in the news a lot. There was some supply chain issues in the beginning of the pandemic where we couldn't get as much food as we needed, because there wasn't food to get," she said. "That was an issue up front; I don't think that's an issue anymore."

To find a local Feeding America branch, visit


This story was produced as part of the Michigan News Group Internship. You can read the print version of this story in the Monday edition of the Cadillac News.