A healthy food culture values food from farm to table and back to the soil. In this interview with Nourish, journalist Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), explains how food waste squanders ecological resources and money. He also shares how families and food producers can reduce, recycle, and reuse that waste to feed more people and give back to the environment.
How much food do Americans waste, and where does it go?
Jonathan Bloom: Americans waste 40 percent of the food we grow and raise, when you look at the calories produced versus calories consumed. It’s staggering. As for how that happens, the short answer is that a decent chunk is squandered at each step of the food chain. Unfortunately, of the food thrown out, 97 percent goes straight into the landfill. Food rotting in landfills produces methane emissions, which contribute to climate change.
Why should we be concerned about food waste?
Jonathan Bloom: In addition to the issue of methane gas, wasted food represents a real squandering of precious resources. In particular, the large amounts of oil and water used to create our food go for naught when we waste as much as we do. Two percent of all US energy consumption goes to producing the food that we subsequently discard.
Food waste represents a $240 billion annual loss on a national level. Closer to home, trimming your household waste can amount to savings of more than $2,200 for the average of family of four.
It’s shameful to waste nearly half of our food when more Americans than ever before are food insecure. It’s all the more disgraceful considering that we throw out enough food to feed all of the world’s hungry.
Next: Simple tips for reducing food waste