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What a waste: Jonathan Bloom wants the US to reduce its food waste problem

In the United States more than 34 million tons of food is wasted annually. Much of it ends up in landfills, where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide.

By Graham SalingerNourishing the Planet / December 2, 2011

A bulldozer shifts garbage at a landfill on the outskirts of Monterey, Calif. Nearly all food waste in the US ends up in landfills, where it produces methane gas. The average family of four throws out an estimated $1,350 worth of food annually.

Darrin Zammit Lupi/File/Reuters

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Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, wants everyone to know that wasted food is a growing problem in the United States that impacts both food security and the environment. But he doesn’t want to beat people over the head with his appeal for people to stop wasting food.

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His blog, Wasted Food, covers everything related to food waste, from the role that consumers and restaurants play to productive ways that people can use every part of a vegetable. He even asks  his readers what their favorite food waste related songs are. His is the Black Lips’ Dumpster Dive.

“In my blog I try not to be too heavy handed,” he explained in a recent interview. “I want to communicate to people that everyone has a role in reducing food waste, so that I can spread the word and so that people who read the blog start changing their behavior, and hopefully their efforts start rubbing off on other people.”

Mr. Bloom began researching food waste in 2005 after doing volunteer work at the D.C. Central Kitchen, an experience that awakened him to the impact of food waste.

“On a fundamental level it doesn’t make sense to me that we waste so much food when so many other people have trouble getting food,” he emphasizes. “There is a fundamental incongruity in that, which needs to be addressed,” he says. He estimates that as much as 25 percent of the food we bring into our homes is wasted. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that an estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted annually.

“On the big picture level, the biggest challenge is to get people to see that food waste is a problem,” Mr. Bloom continues. “For so long it has been seen as the cost of doing business and families have seen food waste as something that just happens.”

Mr. Bloom says that there is a significant opportunity for households to reduce their food waste.  But he points out that getting consumers to change their behavior continues to be an uphill battle.

“Getting people to step back and see food waste for what it is and then change their behavior is a challenge because it means getting people to buy less food, which is easier said than done,” he explains.

In addition to its impact on food security, food waste also has consequences for the environment. In the United States more than 34 million tons of food is wasted annually. Much of this food waste ends up in landfills, where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas more than 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Mr. Bloom hopes that his blog will help others think about food waste in environmental terms.

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