On Thursday evening, April 12, The Hill School welcomed author and journalist Jonathan Bloom
as the year’s third guest speaker on the 2011-12 school-wide theme of Community. Bloom is the author of American Wasteland, a book about food waste. In conjunction with Mr. Bloom’s visit, the School participated in a food drive spearheaded by Mary Kate McArdle ’15 and Student Activities Administrative Assistant Karen Weil. In all, 319 pounds of food and 21 bottles of laundry detergent were donated to the Pottstown Cluster.
Following an introduction by Instructor of the Arts Ellen Nelson, who has organized all of the year’s Community theme events, and third form students Kennedy Gallagher and Ava Longacre, Bloom spoke briefly about his background studying food waste before sharing a startling fact with the audience: “Every day, people in the United States waste enough food to fill the 90,000 seat Rose Bowl Stadium.”
Annually, that translates to 160 billion pounds and $240 billion of wasted food; nearly 25 percent of food we bring into our homes ends up being thrown away.
Bloom sites five core reasons as to why we waste so much food:
1) Food is relatively cheap. While food prices may be rising, household food spending is at an all-time low. People tend to value inexpensive food, and therefore are more willing to waste it, less than they value expensive food.
2) Food is abundant. In addition to the numerous grocery stores, mini-marts, and fast food chains, food now is found at places such as Staples, which has candy and other snacks at the check-out counters. People do not feel the need to be as careful with food because it is so plentiful.
|Jonathan Bloom with members of the Green Initiative|
3) Food is becoming superficial. The appearance of food is becoming more valued than taste. Bloom cited an example of perfectly good cucumbers being thrown away because they were not shaped in a manner that allowed them to be easily packaged and displayed.
4) Portions are becoming bigger. Restaurants are increasingly serving bigger portions, often more than people can eat, which causes a trickle effect into the portions people prepare in their homes.
5) Food knowledge is diminishing from generation to generation. Less food is being prepared at homes as people eat out more frequently, causing food preparation and preservation tips to be forgotten.
During the brainstorming process for his book, a publisher asked Bloom why people should care that we are wasting so much food. This simple question caused him to completely re-think his ideas.
So, why should we care?
We’ve all heard the saying “Clean your plate because there are starving children in (insert country).” While Bloom discounts that statement, he does believe that it is morally callous to waste so much food when in the United States alone 15 percent of households are food insecure, meaning they do not know when or where their next meal will be. He claims a reasonable estimate is that a food waste redistribution of just two percent would end hunger.
The environmental impact of food waste is astounding. Wasted food accounts for two percent of United States energy consumption, as producing food requires energy, which wastes oil. There are 40 trillion liters embedded in the food we waste, and 80 percent of the annual water usage in the United States is used agriculturally. Finally, food waste that is sent to landfills is the second leading source of methane emissions, which is a greenhouse gas that is a major contributor to global warming.
Finally, wasting food annually costs the nation $240 billion per year, which equates to a family of four squandering $2,200 per year on wasted food.
Bloom concluded his talk with a handful of suggestions for ways to reduce food waste and its impact on the environment. The Hill currently practices two such suggestions: we have eliminated the use of trays at buffet meals, which tends to cause people to take less food as they must carry it rather than load it onto a tray; and to compost food, which we have done on multiple occasions under the guidance of Sustainability Coordinator Marie Fechik-Kirk.
More information about Jonathan Bloom can be found at the following sites:
- If you are interested in American Wasteland, please visit www.AmericanWastelandBook.com
- His blog is at www.WastedFood.com
- He can be reached via e-mail at WastedFood@gmail.com
- Follow him on Twitter at @WastedFood