A local nonprofit environmental group is now serving more than 4,000 meals a week to Detroiters, keeping about 15,000 pounds of food out of landfills last month. 

In January, Make Food Not Waste (MFNW) added a second food prep location to support its Upcycling Kitchen program, allowing the program to triple the number of meals it served across Detroit.

The program started in 2021 when MFNW opened a kitchen at the east side Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church to make use of food collected from farms, grocers and restaurants. Businesses donate fresh and packaged food — along with byproducts like grain from beer brewers or whey from cheese manufacturers — that they cannot sell but are still safe to eat.

Chef Ederique Goudia started solo, preparing about 250 meals weekly. Now, Upcycling Kitchen has five professional chefs who work at both the church and the Salvation Army of Metro Detroit’s newly renovated Detroit Harbor Light community kitchen

The upcycling team joins the Bed & Bread program to serve hot meals from a truck to people experiencing homelessness around Detroit. And every Friday, they distribute free meals at the church parking lot from 9 a.m. to noon. 

“Our primary goal is to make sure that the food is eaten by people,” Danielle Todd, MFNW founder and executive director, told Outlier. “We don’t discriminate. If you feel that you need to be here and you need something, then you’re welcome to it.”

As much as 40% of the nation’s food supply is wasted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once wasted food is sent to landfills to decompose, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

“We realized that there was a lot of available food that was going to waste … because someone needed to process it. Someone needed to do something to it before it went back out to the community,” Todd said.

How to help

Todd’s first suggestion is for people to work on reducing their own waste: “Try to buy less, use what you buy and compost the rest,” she said.

To get involved with MFNW, you can donate food or money, or sign up to volunteer to help prepare food or distribute meals. Shifts are available on Tuesdays at the Salvation Army Kitchen and Thursdays and Fridays at the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Malak (she/her) believes in local journalism that provides people with verified and comprehensive information. Her favorite places to unwind and pick up a new read are at Detroit’s bookstores and libraries.