JONATHAN BLOOM: What would it take to cut food waste in half?

JONATHAN BLOOM, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food

It’s morally callous to waste as much food as we do when so many people are without. From an environmental standpoint, there are so many natural resources embedded in our food that when we throw out almost half of it we are squandering those resources. From an economic standpoint, it adds up. It’s about $150 billion a year that we are throwing away.

Why do we waste so much? Quite simply, because we can afford to. Food has never been cheaper as a proportion of household spending. In developed nations, it’s consumer pickiness and squeamishness about not eating things past the expiration date and larger structural problems, such as not sending to market the carrots that aren’t perfect.

To cut food waste in half, we need to know the scope of the problem. Once we know where exactly waste is coming from, we’ll be in a much better position to try to reverse some of those losses.

Number two, having someone in the vast federal apparatus whose job it is to think about this topic would help. There was a food recovery coordinator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Clinton administration, but there hasn’t been one since.

The biggest opportunity to reverse waste is at the farm level. So [a third] important thing is to try to find secondary and tertiary uses for foods we pick but don’t use.

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