Turning Food Waste into Electricity

February 5, 2014

Across the United States, Feeding America's network of food banks are securing much-needed food and providing it to families facing hunger at food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens. To help feed people in need, Feeding America is also rescuing perfectly good food that might otherwise be wasted: cans of soup approaching their best-by-dates; good loaves of day-old bread; even slightly imperfect strawberries.

But in some cases, the produce goes bad before it can be distributed. And what happens then? Kenneth Estelle, CEO, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, has the answer.

As he wrote in an article that appeared in the Huffington Post, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank has partnered with NOVI Energy to produce electricity from food waste.

Turning Rotten Strawberries into Electricity

In October 2012, Michigan power company NOVI Energy unveiled the Fremont Community Digester, whose complex process can convert 100,000 tons of organic waste into 3 megawatts of electricity each year, enough to power 1,500 homes. Before the Fremont Community Digester opened for business, no other digester in the state could process the vast array of foods handled at Feeding America West Michigan. Much of that waste was simply sent to the landfill.

Today, it's a different story. In June, Feeding America West Michigan sent a semi-truck filled with 20,000 pounds of rotten strawberries, eggs and onions not to the landfill — but to the Fremont Community Digester where it became electricity.

By using organic waste to produce renewable energy, NOVI Energy's president and founder Anand Gangadharan sees his plant as a common-sense solution to what is often portrayed as an impossible problem. At Feeding America, we agree.

"At its core, food banking has always been a green idea. We take excess food, keep it from going to waste and get it to people in need," writes Kenneth Estelle, CEO, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. "NOVI takes much the same approach to energy, and by working together, we can ensure that none of our food, even the food that can't be eaten, goes to waste."


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