Kirkus Reviews QR Code
AMERICAN WASTELAND by Jonathan Bloom Kirkus Star

AMERICAN WASTELAND

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

By Jonathan Bloom

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7382-1364-4
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong/Perseus

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.