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American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) Hardcover – October 12, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In one of the twenty-first century’s most appalling ironies, developed nations throw away massive amounts of food while people in remote lands starve. Journalist Bloom documents some 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. He finds food crops lying rotting in fields owing to intentional social policy, economic vagaries, and sheer ignorance. In restaurants, portion sizes have ballooned under the mantras “Bigger is better” and “Would you like to supersize that?” And many Americans allow food to decay on refrigerator shelves out of carelessness, lack of meal planning, and sheer ignorance. Bloom has found some hopeful signs that this trend may be waning. Many grocery stores and restaurants dispose of surplus edibles through food pantries and similar charitable outlets. Some socially conscious farmers are trying to revive the ancient practice of allowing the poor to glean. --Mark Knoblauch

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738213640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738213644
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Bloom is a journalist, consultant, and food waste expert who created the blog Wasted Food. In October 2010, Da Capo Press published his book, American Wasteland. Now out in paperback, the book won the IACP Green Matters Award in June 2011. Bloom's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek.

Bloom regularly gives talks on the issue of food waste, speaking at colleges and conferences from Indiana (Notre Dame) to Italy (Barilla Food & Nutrition Conference). He consults on food waste reduction, most recently working with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, Harvard Law School, the Natural Resouces Defense Council and several startups. And Bloom was the O.V.W. Hawkins Expert-in-Residence at Bucknell University for 2012-13.

An earnest yet mediocre composter, Bloom lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife, two sons and many, many containers for leftovers.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Before you even read my review of American Wasteland, I urge you to buy it. Or reserve it at your library. Or put it on your Christmas list. Just find some way to get your hands on it. Because it is truly the most compelling, entertaining, and inspiring book I've read in a long time.

I'm amazed by how comprehensive this book is. Bloom explores food waste at every step of the supply chain: from farms to processing plants to supermarkets to restaurants to cafeterias to the average American home. The amount of food that's wasted in America each and every day-while millions go hungry-is astonishing. Meanwhile, ridiculous amounts of methane are releasing into our atmosphere because of the literal tons of food in our landfills.

Bloom spent several years studying food-waste in depth, and it shows. He worked at McDonald's, a supermarket, and Orbit Energy. He traveled to Britain to meet with prominent politicians. He journeyed to California's vast farms. He ate lunch with students at elementary schools and universities alike. And he visited ordinary households to observe their food waste.

I love Bloom's dry sense of humor, which is peppered throughout the book, and I was really surprised by his upbeat tone. I expected a riveting--but dismal-- story. Instead, I found an eye-opening and hopeful narrative. The last chapter is titled "If I Were the King of the Forest," and it's full of information about drastically reducing our nation's food waste. While it's not realistic for the average consumer to expect to end waste, Bloom offers many helpful tips for cutting down on in-home waste. After finishing the book, I found myself challenging myself to use up odds and ends of food in our kitchen. I will never look at food waste the same way again!

(I did receive a free review copy of this book; however, I was not rewarded for a positive review, and all opinions are my own).
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting book on how wasteful we are with our food. I was stunned that half our food ends up in landfills. What an eye-opener. It is obvious, when reading this book, that Mr. Bloom investigated this topic for many years. This is an issue that we can all improve on and Mr. Bloom offers many solutions and recommendations that will assist in mending our wasteful ways. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As someone who manages my family's food inventory and stash of leftovers with an ardent zeal usually reserved for much more glamorous pursuits, I am so glad that Jonathan Bloom wrote this book!

This book is a must-read if you want to understand the sources and effects of food waste--and what you can do to reduce food waste in your life and community. Bloom extensively researched every aspect of food waste, from California lettuce fields to school lunches to the back rooms and dumpsters of supermarkets. He discusses existing solutions such as higher rates of composting and increased opportunities for gleaning (harvesting left-behind produce) from farms. His combination of journalistic research and first-hand experiences makes for convincing arguments. His sense of humor helps to make a potentially heavy and depressing topic accessible and readable.

If you're trying to reduce food waste in your own home, you'll find plenty of practical tips and advice throughout the book but especially in Chapter 8, Home Is Where the Waste Is. My family is committed to keeping our own food waste to a minimum--and I think we actually succeed--but I still found so much useful information in this book, particularly on what I can do beyond my own kitchen. Bloom's exploration of the broader social and environmental effects of food waste were especially enlightening and add an important dimension to something you might already be doing simply for budget reasons. While controlling your food budget can be an important reason for avoiding food waste and a sufficient motivation in itself, you'll find the wider ethical and environmental reasons both compelling and inspiring.

I wish everyone would read this book so that we can see a meaningful reduction in food waste. It's a big problem that is actually pretty easy to address--a rare combination and a great opportunity to make a difference!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bloom addresses an issue of incredible importance that most Americans rarely consider - food waste - and shows how we can impact this problem with relative ease. He covers key aspects of the food waste problem, including our culture of abundance, our obsession with perfect produce, and the ease of discarding food as trash - all of which lead to what he refers to as the "coexistence of hunger and food waste" - leading the U.S. to waste $160 billion in food annually while roughly 50 million Americans are food insecure. He also notes the environmental problems associated with food waste - greenhouse gas emissions from decaying food, consumption of limited landfill space, negative impact on groundwater, and fossil fuel consumption in the transport of food waste.

Bloom reveals a dangerous cycle regarding food: We're wasting resources by growing too much, and in the process depleting our soils, using too much fertilizer with negative environmental effects, and depleting our water supplies while we then use additional resources to haul the excess to landfills where it causes further harm to the environment while millions remain hungry. It's a cycle that we need to break - and to do so we need a change of mindset.

Bloom notes that we should think of food waste as an opportunity - and we should take action to harness food waste to feed the hungry while also improving the environment and the economy. He points out that we "devalue" food by providing large quantities of cheap, unhealthy food to our kids - thereby reinforcing the ease of discarding food and perpetuating the cycle noted above.
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