by Marlena White
Jonathan Bloom recently discussed his book, American Wasteland at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, MD. The book highlights the economic and environmental costs of food waste, and how consumers and policymakers can play their part in reducing waste to protect the environment, fight hunger, and save money.
Why We Waste
Bloom estimates that as much as 25 percent of all the food Americans bring into their homes goes to waste. Why? In the United States food is inexpensive—thanks largely to government subsidies—and abundant for most consumers. And it is often served in large portion sizes that can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be consumed in one sitting. As a result, Americans tend to value food less than they did before food was so readily available and inexpensive, and throw it away more frequently. In addition, they judge the quality of their food based on aesthetics. “Appearance trumps taste,” according to Bloom, so many perfectly edible foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, are discarded because they aren’t the right size, shape, or color.
Bloom also cites the loss of food knowledge as a primary contributor to food waste. “People don’t know when something’s good or not,” he says, explaining why people throw away food at home. Expiration and sell-by dates are used to fill this knowledge gap, but tend to be loose and often inaccurate indicators of how quickly a food should be eaten. Consequently, Americans discard a large amount of food that is completely fine for consumption.
Why Should We Care?