- The New York Times
- From Farm to Fridge to Garbage CanThe New York Times, Article
- LA Times
- Help the Planet: Stop Wasting FoodLA Times, Op-ed (by Jonathan)
- The Wall Street Journal
- Throwing Away Our FoodThe Wall Street Journal, Article
- American Wasteland: How We Waste FoodCNN, TV interview
- Talk of the Nation
- The Ugly Truth About Food Waste in AmericaTalk of the Nation, Radio Interview
- Sustainable Foods SummitSan FranciscoConference Keynote
- University of ArizonaTucson, AZPublic Lecture
- Food for ThoughtLos AngelesPanel Discussion
- Furman UniversityGreenville, SCPublic Lecture
- Grinnell ColllegeGrinnell, IAPublic Lecture
If you'd like to schedule Jonathan to speak at your event, contact him to discuss availability.
That waste, writes journalist Bloom, is enough to fill the 90,000-seat Rose Bowl stadium each day—by a conservative estimate, half a pound of food per American per day. “How we reached the point where most people waste more than their body weight…each year in food is a complicated tale,” he writes, and so it is. Food waste is a matter of individual decisions. We determine when and what to buy, stocking too-large refrigerators and too-capacious pantries with oversized containers of food that cannot possibly be consumed before they go bad. By Bloom’s calculation, anywhere from a quarter to half of the food we buy is tossed away, costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars a year. Yet many of the decisions that result in that waste are beyond our control, made somewhere between farm and fork by corporate powers that, it would appear, consider waste a species of planned obsolescence. The environmental results alone are appalling, writes the author. It takes 15 tons of water to produce a kilogram of red meat, to say nothing of the energy, land and carbon emissions produced by large-scale agriculture. Bloom is full of condemnation without being unduly scolding, though he seems dour and dire at times: “Limiting waste requires patience, effort, and food knowledge,” he writes. “While these used to be common American traits, that is less true today.” Completely eliminating food waste is an unlikely scenario, he writes, but reducing it is not—it can be taught, just as the present generations have been taught, quite successfully, to recycle.
Refreshingly, Bloom offers solutions as well as jeremiads, and not a minute too soon—an urgent, necessary book.
Bloom approaches his subject matter from multiple angles: fighting hunger, promoting environmentalism and acting ethically. It is no secret that millions of Americans (and who knows how many millions more in other nations) lack enough food, despite the gigantic amounts of food wasted from farm to plate.
Perhaps less well understood is that much of the wasted food ends up in landfills, where its decomposition yields methane gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
The ethical conundrums are less tangible, revolving around what Bloom calls "the often maligned dinner-table commandment: Clean your plate; there are children starving in (pick a country)."
On a literal level, Bloom recognizes that a linear relationship between wasted food on a dinner plate and starvation thousands of miles away is nonsense. And yet, he adds, "there's something to associating unfinished food with hunger, morally speaking. The essence of 'clean your plate' remains meaningful — value your food. As does the secondary message — Don't forget that some people don't get enough to eat."
After wrestling with the philosophical, Bloom, a freelance journalist in Durham, N.C., leads a tour of every imaginable link in the food chain. He explains, in massive (and sometimes repetitive) detail, food waste in the agricultural fields, packing plants, transportation chain, school cafeterias, supermarkets, restaurants, convenience stores, private kitchens (especially those with overstocked refrigerators) and even charitable redistribution centers.
The book is United States-centric. Still, Bloom manages to travel to England, where governments and private-sector businesses are combining to reduce food waste in admirable, coordinated, effective ways.
In the final chapter, Bloom offers his reform agenda, topped by three overarching changes: Establish a national food-recovery coordinator, create a national public-service campaign to raise awareness about food waste, and ban food from landfills.
In a resources section placed just before the book's index, Bloom lists Web addresses for learning more about meal planning, recipes for leftover food, safe food storage, donations of food to feed the hungry, increasing efficiency in school cafeterias and restaurants, plus less obvious topics.
The how-to nature of some sections clashes in tone with the exposé nature of other sections. Like fanatics from all realms, Bloom can come across as shrill and scolding. He is a well-informed fanatic, though, because he knows how to mine data from reliable sources, and while completing the book he immersed himself in the food-waste pipeline — working three months, for example, in the produce department of a supermarket.
It is difficult to think of most food wasters as villains. Some of them, especially restaurant and supermarket managers, seem motivated by a concern for safety of consumers — after all, some older or marred food items could cause illnesses.
Yet the wasters simultaneously seem to exhibit a lack of common sense. Minor changes in procedure, suggested by Bloom throughout the text, could minimize the probability of illnesses while feeding countless near-starving individuals residing nearby. — The Seattle Times