American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)

American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)

4.6 5
by Jonathan Bloom
     
 

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What Tom Vanderbilt did for traffic and Brian Wansink did for mindless eating, Jonathan Bloom does for food waste. The topic couldn’t be timelier: As more people are going hungry while simultaneously more people are morbidly obese, American Wasteland sheds light on the history, culture, and mindset of waste while exploring the parallel eco-friendly and…  See more details below

Overview

What Tom Vanderbilt did for traffic and Brian Wansink did for mindless eating, Jonathan Bloom does for food waste. The topic couldn’t be timelier: As more people are going hungry while simultaneously more people are morbidly obese, American Wasteland sheds light on the history, culture, and mindset of waste while exploring the parallel eco-friendly and sustainable-food movements. As the era of unprecedented prosperity comes to an end, it’s time to reexamine our culture of excess.

Working at both a local grocery store and a major fast food chain and volunteering with a food recovery group, Bloom also interviews experts—from Brian Wansink to Alice Waters to Nobel Prize–winning economist Amartya Sen—and digs up not only why and how we waste, but, more importantly, what we can do to change our ways.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Since the Great Depression and the world wars, the American attitude toward food has gone from a "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" patriotic and parsimonious duty to an orgy of "grab-and-go" where food's fetish and convenience qualities are valued above sustainability or nutrition. Journalist Bloom follows the trajectory of America's food from gathering to garbage bin in this compelling and finely reported study, examining why roughly half of our harvest ends up in landfills or rots in the field. He accounts for every source of food waste, from how it is picked, purchased, and tossed in fear of being past inscrutable "best by" dates. Bloom's most interesting point is psychological: we have trained ourselves to regard food as a symbol of American plenty that should be available at all seasons and times, and in dizzying quantities. "Current rates of waste and population growth can't coexist much longer," he warns and makes smart suggestions on becoming individually and collectively more food conscious "to keep our Earth and its inhabitants physically and morally healthy." (Nov.)
From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews (starred review), 8/15/10
“An eye-opening account of what used to be considered a sin—the willful waste of perfectly edible food…Bloom is full of condemnation without being unduly scolding…Refreshingly, Bloom offers solutions as well as jeremiads, and not a minute too soon—an urgent, necessary book.”

Booklist, 10/1/10
“Journalist Bloom documents specifics about the nature of wasted food in the twenty-first century and calls into question both the economic efficiency and the morality of such profligacy.”
 

Publishers Weekly, 9/27 “Journalist Bloom follows the trajectory of America’s food from gathering to garbage bin in this compelling and finely reported study, examining why roughly half of our harvest ends up in landfills or rots in the field…Bloom’s most interesting point is psychological: we have trained ourselves to regard food as a symbol of American plenty that should be available at all seasons and times, and in dizzying quantities…[He] makes smart suggestions on becoming individually and collectively more food conscious.”

Huffington Post, 11/9/10
“Timely, terrific new book.”

Tucson Citizen, 11/23/10
“This book could change your life.”

TheAtlantic.com
“Rather than being yet another industrial food system downer of a book, this is a good read that somehow inspires rather than defeats…Bloom’s first-person reportage draws you in and will have you promising to always bring Tupperware from home when you go out to eat.”

TheDailyGreen.com,

“Bloom gives us the trash stats, but he also helps come up with everyday solutions you can put into action today.”
 

VegNews, February 2011
“An eye-opening read.”

Choice, April 2011
“Bloom’s book is worth consideration, not only because of his focus on the American food waste problem, but also because of his evident desire to do something about it. Recommended.”

Gastronomica, Fall 2011
“With a journalist’s attention to research and observation, and a do-gooder’s sense of urgency, he tackles [food waste] from different perspectives, examining links along our national food chain, including farms, supermarkets, restaurants, and individual kitchens.”

SergeTheConcierge.com, 8/23/11
“Worth the investment both for your wallet and for the planet.”
 

January Magazine, January 2011 “One of those non-fiction works that will alter lives and probably end up being made into a film one day. Winner of the IACP Cookbook Award (Food Matters category), it’s an important book that has the power to make a difference.”

Find Me Frugal (blog), 9/30/11 “Fascinating.”

Kirkus Reviews

An eye-opening account of what used to be considered a sin—the willful waste of perfectly edible food.

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780738215624
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
08/30/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
260,485
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews (starred review), 8/15/10
“An eye-opening account of what used to be considered a sin—the willful waste of perfectly edible food…Bloom is full of condemnation without being unduly scolding…Refreshingly, Bloom offers solutions as well as jeremiads, and not a minute too soon—an urgent, necessary book.”

Booklist 10/1/10“Journalist Bloom documents specifics about the nature of wasted food in the twenty-first century and calls into question both the economic efficiency and the morality of such profligacy.” Publishers Weekly, 9/27 “Journalist Bloom follows the trajectory of America’s food from gathering to garbage bin in this compelling and finely reported study, examining why roughly half of our harvest ends up in landfills or rots in the field…Bloom’s most interesting point is psychological: we have trained ourselves to regard food as a symbol of American plenty that should be available at all seasons and times, and in dizzying quantities…[He] makes smart suggestions on becoming individually and collectively more food conscious.”

Huffington Post, 11/9/10
“Timely, terrific new book.”

Tucson Citizen, 11/23/10
“This book could change your life.”

TheAtlantic.com“Rather than being yet another industrial food system downer of a book, this is a good read that somehow inspires rather than defeats…Bloom’s first-person reportage draws you in and will have you promising to always bring Tupperware from home when you go out to eat.”
TheDailyGreen.com,
“Bloom gives us the trash stats, but he also helps come up with everyday solutions you can put into action today.” VegNews, February 2011“An eye-opening read.”

Choice, April 2011
“Bloom’s book is worth consideration, not only because of his focus on the American food waste problem, but also because of his evident desire to do something about it. Recommended.”

Gastronomica, Fall 2011
“With a journalist’s attention to research and observation, and a do-gooder’s sense of urgency, he tackles [food waste] from different perspectives, examining links along our national food chain, including farms, supermarkets, restaurants, and individual kitchens.”

SergeTheConcierge.com, 8/23/11“Worth the investment both for your wallet and for the planet.” January Magazine, January 2011 “One of those non-fiction works that will alter lives and probably end up being made into a film one day. Winner of the IACP Cookbook Award (Food Matters category), it’s an important book that has the power to make a difference.”

Find Me Frugal (blog), 9/30/11 “Fascinating.”

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Meet the Author

Jonathan Bloom is a freelance journalist and food waste expert who writes the blog Wasted Food. An accomplished eater and fledgling composter, he has covered both serious and quirky topics related to food and the environment. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, and Variety, among others. A Boston native, he lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his family, and many, many containers for leftovers.

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