Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:
There are a few laws that attempt to tackle the issue of wasted ugly food, but none seem to have solved the issue entirely. The “Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act” was created to encourage the donation of food and grocery products while providing liability protection to food donors to grocery stores. Under this Act, as long as the donor has not acted with negligence or intentional misconduct, the company is not liable for damage incurred as the result of illness. This bill makes it possible for grocery stores to donate, but does not necessarily encourage or enforce it.
For whatever reason, the word still hasn't gotten out about the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, and a majority of stores do not donate their unsold food. Many stores still just do not know about it, and other knowingly choose not to donate their food. While this law encourages stores to do donate, stores would need to spend their own time and resources to do so. This makes it unlikely for many stores do. Also, even with the law, many stores are still worried that they may receive bad press or even lawsuits if their donated food causes someone to become sick. While this law is a step in the right direction, it does not offer any incentive to stores and does not solve the issue of wasted ugly foods.
Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:
This proposal will help change the day-to-day lives of the hundreds of thousands of Michigan citizens that are food insecure by mitigating wasted food while providing more donations to charities and food banks. Food waste makes up at least 13.6% of all the municipal solid waste currently being deposited in Michigan landfills. Waste prevention is the top priority from environmental, social, and economic points of view. My proposal aims to feed those who are food insecure with the foods that are currently being wasted.
Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Unfortunately, in southeast Michigan, more than 707,000 people are food insecure (16.8%) and more than 200,000 children are food insecure (19.7%). When children lack access to regular, nutritious meals, they don’t have the energy or focus to reach their fullest potential in their day-to-day lives. This proposal is aimed to stop the excessive waste of perfectly good produce while increasing the amount of donations given to charities and food banks that feed the poor. Everyone deserves the right to be hunger free.
How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?
I learned about this issue through a video I saw about new French legislation that made it illegal for supermarkets to throw away edible food. The video touched me because I shop in grocery stores every day and have always noticed that the ugly fruits and vegetables are rarely bought. This led me to research the systems in America that deal with food waste in grocery stores, and I was not happy with what I found. There were close to none. Upon entering this class, my knowledge of the subject has grown immensely and I have researched the subject online and through consultations with people in the field.
How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?
For my service activity I worked though Food Gathers in their community kitchen preparing and service food to the impoverished. From this experience, I received both hope and shock about this topic.
I was surprised to see how much food the community kitchen received from donations already. I was often able to help unload the weekly food delivery, and was shocked by how much fresh food they received. Also, each meal was plentiful enough to feed about one hundred people with appetizers, entrees, and even dessert. I spoke with staff and they were proud to say that they receive a majority of food donations from a wide variety of sources each week. This gave me hope for the future of food insecurity in Michigan.
On the other hand, the enormous amount of food that we did have was not enough to feed everyone to their fullest needs. Working the serving station, I often had to tell people that they were not able to have seconds or thirds. As much food as we did have, there was not enough to completely feed the amount of people that came. This was very touching to me because it showed me how big the issue of food insecurity really was. As the staff informed me, every donation allows them to feed more people in need.
Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:
Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).
Scott Roubeck: Scott is the Community Kitchen Training Coordinator for Food Gatherers and the leader at the community kitchen in Ann Arbor that I worked at for my service aspect. Scott and I were able to have a chat after finishing serving lunch to around 100 hungry people one afternoon. Scott had much insight on the subject and found my topic especially relevant to his work. At this kitchen, they receive food from Food Gathers, who receive their food from a wide variety of places. He explained how donations from farmers are always plentiful, but he could not say the same thing about grocery stores. He explained his frustration with the lack of incentive for grocery stores to give away their ugly food instead of throwing it away. We talked much about the new legislation in France and how it would be hard to pass such legislation in America. He gave me his best solution to the problem, which would be to approach the problem by looking at grocery stores waste. From working in the field, he knows that grocery stores heaviest waste product is the food they throw out. If we could somehow limit the amount of Waste a grocery store puts out, we can limit the amount of food they throw away. By combining this idea with an incentive to donate, Scott believes we can mitigate the amount of foods thrown out and increase the amount donated to community kitchens like his own. After talking with Scott, I came up with my final legislative proposal.
Mario Batali: My friend’s dad is a chef who owns many restaurants and knows many restaurant owners in Michigan. I asked his insight on wasted ugly foods, and he was able to paint a picture of why they are so important. He explained how when he cooks certain meals, such as chili or apple pie, there is no difference in what his produce look like. The vegetables and fruits are eventually cut up taste and look just the same as more aesthetically pleasing produce. While few dishes require a neat presentation of a whole fruit or vegetable, he explained how dishes could be cooked with either. This might seem obvious to some, but I can attest that I sometimes look down on ugly produce and believe they taste worse. After speaking with Mr. Batali, I was able to see the reality of ugly foods. They are just as useful, especially to those who are in need.
Chad Rogers: Chad works for the Pollution Prevention and Stewardship Department of Environmental Quality of Michigan. I contacted him to talk specifically about the waste that grocery stores make and how thrown away food affects pollution. He explained how one of the largest waste going into landfills, if not the largest, is food. Not only does food fill up our landfills, but the gases that these foods release are detrimental to our environment. Chad had much insight on the subject of waste management and helped me narrow in on how I can give grocery stores incentives to reduce their waste. His department gives away a lot of grants throughout the year to companies who show that they have their waste and pollution under proper standards. One of their grants actually goes to businesses that reduce their food waste. Unfortunately, these grants are only available when they have proper funds (which is not too often). He was very excited about the idea of the government stepping in to help decrease food waste. One thing he noted was that Michigan has one of the lowest tipping fees out of all the states. A tipping fee is the fee a business pays the landfill in order to dump their trash. The tipping fee is split between the landfill owner and the state. Michigan’s fee is so low that Canadian companies actually drive their trash over the border in order to save money. Chad and I both agreed that this tipping fee would be a great means of attacking the problem of wasted food.
Worker at Replenish: I spoke with a worker at Replenish (a small local grocery store) about what happens to the produce that isn’t sold by the end of the day. He explained that usually the produce that is left by the end of the day are the ones that are either misshaped or discolored. Unfortunately, Replenish throws all leftover produce away because it would take too much time to sort through them and make sure they fit the criteria for donation. While many of the produce do fit the criteria, the company decided that it is just not worth the trouble to sort through them. The worker expressed his sadness about the decision, but that there is nothing he can do.
The issue I am addressing is that of wasted “ugly food” by grocery stores. “Ugly food” is food considered not as aesthetically pleasing as possible, but still completely edible. These foods may be misshaped, have unusual coloring or have small blemishes, making them unfavorable to consumers. It is consumer nature to pick the best looking piece of fruit or vegetable from the batch. There is nothing unnatural about this thought process, but it is causing massive food waste. When grocery stores cannot sell the ugly food that they buy, they end up sending perfectly edible food away to rot in a landfill. Food waste makes up at least 13.6% of all the municipal solid waste currently being disposed in Michigan landfills. Waste prevention is the top priority from environmental, social and economic points of view.
It is unacceptable that in a country where 42 million people live in food insecure households, food that is edible never reaches the hands of those in need. In southeast Michigan, more than 707,000 people are food insecure (16.8%) and more than 200,000 children are food insecure (19.7%). Every day, people go to bed hungry while pounds of food get transported to landfills. Even with the high numbers of food banks and community kitchens in our state, we still lack the resources to keep all of our citizens food secure. Finding a solution to this inefficiency would be changing the every day lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
What makes this problem so hard to combat is our capitalist society. We live in a free market economy where companies are able to buy, sell and trade without any government interference. The government cannot make a grocery store buy or sell foods they do not want to. No store wants to buy ugly produce that wouldn’t sell on their shelves. For that reason, farmers choose the easiest route and throw the food away. There must be a way for the government to step in and mitigate these food losses.
Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.
SOLUTION 1: This solution will address the issue of supermarkets throwing away foods they cannot sell. The simplest legislative solution to this problem would be to make it illegal for grocery stores to throw away ugly food. France was the first country to pass a law like this. Under the new law, French grocery stores and supermarkets are not allowed to trash items approaching their best-before date. Instead, they will be expected to donate the items to charity. These charities will distribute the foods—amounting to millions of meals annually—to those who are food insecure. Failure to do so could result in fines reaching upwards of €75,000 ($83,500) or two years in jail. This solution is a no-brainer to me, as it provides the simplest and cleanest solution to the issue.
SOLUTION 2: Looking at the waste of a grocery store, the largest and heaviest contribution is food products. Food waste makes up at least 13.6% of all the municipal solid waste currently being disposed in Michigan landfills. This solution looks to provide incentives for stores to reduce their waste and increase their donations. If there were legislation intact that would incentivize grocery stores to lower their waste, they would be inclined to find something to do with their ugly food instead of throw it away. By raising the tipping cost, which is the cost to send solid waste to landfills, the state can incentivize stores to save money by producing less waste. If we combine this with an incentive for stores to donate the ugly food, we could solve the ultimate problem of food going to waste while many remain hungry. The way to do this would be to use the money gained by the raised tipping cost to create programs that would reward stores who donate the most.
SOLUTION 3: A third solution would be to force grocery stores to have a section where they sell discounted “ugly foods”. While this solution has been proposed many times by students in this caucus and politicians, I find it very detrimental to the idea of America's free market. We live in a capitalist society where the government has little influence on business compared to other countries. This solution may go against our country's economic principals, but it would save food-deprived people and therefore should be considered.
Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:
In Kayla Schwartz’s comment, she advised me to “bring this issue back to the state of Michigan. Make sure to explain why this is a problem specifically in this state in order to generate concrete solutions”. Initially, I thought that this issue was specific to Michigan because we have such high rates of food insecurity, but there are many more states with higher rates. I realized that there are more reasons that make this issue particularly significant to Michigan, one being our food waste policies. After doing some research, I found that Michigan has one of the lowest tipping fees in the nation. This low tipping fee indirectly affects how much food is thrown out each year. Grocery stores are more willing to throw away unsold food because it cost them so little to do so. This piece of info will now be applied to my proposal. Using Kayla’s advice, I was able to dig deeper and find out why this issue is so important to the state of Michigan.
I choose this topic after seeing a video explaining how France has officially outlawed throwing away edible food. At first, I did research on the new legislation in France that banned stores from throwing away foods that could be donated. I was very intrigued to learn how it passed through legislation and if America had any similar laws. The campaign to end food waste in France began after local Councilman Arash Derambarsh launched a petition promising “10 million French people would not go hungry.” France is the first country in the world to adopt food waste legislation of this kind. While in the U.S., I found that legislation only encourages donations to nonprofit organizations. The main law that encourages donates is the “Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act”.
My initial response was to adopt Frances same legislation. At first, I thought this would be a widely accepted law in America. I soon realized that an ongoing battle in America is the one between the private and public sector. Since the birth of our country, private organizations have been pushing back against the reach of the government into private business matters. If this were communist country, a law like this would be easily enacted if the government wanted. In America, I could foresee a law like this being threatening to our capitalist culture. I agree that private businesses should be able to buy, sell, and throw away their own products as they please. After thinking it over, I realized that there must be a more creative way to tackle this issue without encroaching too much into the rights of business owners.
For the next few weeks, I placed close attention to where I shopped for groceries. I struck up many conversations with workers at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Replenish, asking them about what happens to their “ugly foods” that are not sold by closing time. Every single one of them answered that the food was thrown away because it would take too much time for them to sort and donate the foods that were still edible. This is when I realized that the solution to the issue was make it “worth it” for these stores to donate their leftover produce instead of throwing them away. At the time, I did not know how to incentivize this without using government money. I wanted to find a way to create a win-win situation for all parties.
When I spoke with Scott Roubeck from food gatherers, he brought the idea of using the solid waste of grocery stores to limit the amount of food they throw away. He explained how the biggest waste a grocery store makes comes from solid food. Once I knew this, I realized that if we could somehow encourage grocery stores to reduce their solid waste, they will be more inclined to sort through and donate their produce. As long as the laws made it “worth it” for them, we would see a whole lot more donations instead of wasted food.
Finally, I spoke with state employees who worked with the pollution and waste departments to understand how Michigan deals with its waste issue. After doing deep research into the topic online, I was shocked to find out that Michigan has one of the lowest tipping fees out of any state. This means that it cost very little to send waste to landfills. So little that Canada ships its waste over the border! The average tipping fees in Michigan are about $25 to $30 per ton, while the national average is between $40 and $50. This was my golden piece of information, as I realized it would be the perfect basis for my legislation. If we could raise the tipping fee in Michigan and make it more expensive to throw away solid waste, we would incentivize stores to find alternatives for their leftover foods besides throwing them away, such as donating it. Legislation to raise this tipping fee would be likely to pass because it would be fixing an environmental issue as well. This is because the composition of organic waste in landfills contributes to global warming.
To back up this idea, I did some research and calculations on how this would play out. In the U.S, about 53 million tons of food waste nationally going to landfills every year. Of this, 10% comes from grocery stores. Michigan’s population of nearly 10 million suggests that as much as 2 million tons of food waste are likely being disposed of each year, 200,000 coming from grocery stores. If we raised our tipping fee from an average of $27 to an average of $55, the tipping business would profit around 3.6 million more dollars per year. Since the state takes around 36% of this revenue, the state would profit around 1.3 million more dollars per year.
Not only would this legislature tackle the issue of grocery stores wasting edible food, but it would also bring the state millions of dollars in the process. This received money could then be used to incentivize food donations. For example, one person who I consulted with who works for The State of Michigan Pollution Prevention said that they have looked at the idea of giving food waste grants to business who show that they are doing everything possible to reduce their waste. The same idea could be used to reward grocery stores who donate their food. The money that the state receives from the increased tipping costs can be used as an annual reward to the grocery stores with the highest food donations. This would incentivize the grocery stores to sort and donate their food, even if it cost them extra time and resources.
Overall, my final proposal has come together in my head quite nicely. To simplify it into steps: Step 1- Create legislation that would raise the tipping rates. Step 2- Create grant programs to incentivize stores to donate their leftover foods to charity.
I am the only author/contributor to this proposal.
The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.
WHEREAS.... In southeast Michigan, more than 707,000 people are food insecure (16.8%) and more than 200,000 children are food insecure (19.7%).
WHEREAS.... Every year, the United States throws away one-third of all the food it produces-133 billion pounds of food. Grocery stores are responsible for tossing 10% of that food.
WHEREAS.... A majority of the food thrown away by grocery stores is considered “ugly” by consumers, but completely edible. Every year, grocery stores send tons of edible food to rot in landfills because they have no incentive to spend resources to sort and donate them to charities or food banks.
WHEREAS.... The average tipping fees (the money stores pay to dump their waste at a landfill) in Michigan are about $25 to $30 per ton for, while the national average is between $40 and $50.
These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....
1. The state of Michigan raises its tipping fee averages from $25 to $55.
2. The State of Michigan uses the funds from the raised tipping fee to reward stores (with grants) who donate their unsold foods to charities.
What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?
1. A decent argument would be that if the tipping fee in Michigan was raised, companies would just find a way to ship their solid waste to another state with lower costs- Just as Canada ships its waste to Michigan. What I would say to this is that Michigan has one of the lowest tipping costs in the U.S and even in the Midwest. The average tipping costs in the Midwest is $48, so it would be difficult and possibly not cost effective for companies to ship waste to a state with a lower rate.
2. Another decent argument would be that if this plan were to work and the raised tipping prices caused a outstanding decrease in solid waste, then the profits from the tipping costs would decrease significantly and there wouldn’t be enough money to provide rewards/grants. My response to this would be that even if the amount of waste significantly deceased and thus there was not as much money for grants, we would still be solving a massive environmental issue. This proposal can either work great for the environment, great for our lower socioeconomic classes, or for both.
3. Lastly, an argument would be that grocery stores will pay the higher tipping costs and still not sort their leftover foods for donation. Some stores may find that the cost for them to sort and donate their leftover foods is greater than the amount it would cost to throw them away. This may be a valid argument for small convenience stores, but for the majority of grocery stores this will not be the case. The cost to have an employee responsible for such sorting is minimal compared to the cost of throwing away large quantities of food. Even if it was greater, my plan to implement rewards for stores who donate their foods will further incentivize stores to donate.
Costs and funding:
The best part about this proposal is that there are no costs to the government and potentially no costs to participating grocery stores.
The average tipping fee in Michigan is about $25 to $30 per ton, while the national average is between $40 and $50. Since the state receives around 36% of this revenue, if we could pass legislation to raise this tipping fee, the state would receive more money. In the U.S, about 53 million tons of food waste nationally going to landfills every year. Of this, 10% comes from grocery stores. Michigan’s population of nearly 10 million suggests that as much as 2 million tons of food waste are likely being disposed each year, 200,000 tons coming from grocery stores. If we raised our tipping fee from an average of $27 to an average of $55, the tipping business would profit around 3.6 million more dollars per year. Since the state takes around 36% of this revenue, the state would profit around 1.3 million more dollars per year.
We would then use this money to reward stores who donate food to charities. Most charities are willing to pick up donated food for free, so there would be no cost incurred in the process. There are already state funded departments in place, such as the Pollution Prevention and Stewardship Department of Environmental Quality of Michigan, that create programs in order to reward companies for a variety of environmental accomplishments. This money could be given to them for creating and distributing such grants. If a store does a good job donating, they might be awarded a grant and therefore make money on their donations.
These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.