• Jonathan Bloom writes about why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it. This is his blog.

Produce Name Game

Alphabet produce, my favorite pet topic, reared its curvy little head this weekend.

Normally, I post pics of fruits and veggies that resemble a letter or number. On Saturday, though, I found three such oddities. And in an amazing bit of Scrabble karma, they just happened to be the letters that spell my name:

I found all of these beauts at the same stand at the Chatham Mills Farmers’ Market. When I told the grower that I love quirky produce, she even helped my search and suggested the ‘J,’ which she thought resembled a yoga pose.

These eggplants are yet another reason of why I love farmers’ markets. Where else can you get a chuckle, a reminder that taste trumps appearance, a blog post and half of a meal for a buck? And lest you doubt the latter, here’s photographic evidence that a fruit or vegetable’s taste is in no way related to its shape.


September 2, 2014 | Posted in Alphabet Produce, Farmers' Market | Comments closed

Schooling Waste

Seeing the USDA involved in fighting food waste is encouraging. Especially when it’s in the realm of school lunch. That’s why I found this blog post on solutions to school food waste and the corresponding infographic (see below) such a pleasant surprise.

The post counters the popular misconception that schools are required to trash all student leftovers, including sealed packages, unopened milk or whole fruit. As mentioned in this article, schools are covered by a 2011 addition to the Good Samaritan Act, inserted into an appropriations bill by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. That means that school cafeterias don’t have to be the food waste factories that most are today.

Most, but not all. For example, Chesterbrook Elementary of McLean, Virginia–highlighted in the USDA blog post–teaches students to separate out food worthy of donation. Parent volunteers then donate that food the local food pantry. I now have a new favorite school.

The post also highlights the tireless work of the Food Bus non-profit, which collects and distributes excess food from schools and teaches kids why wasting food is too uncool for school.

Anyway, here’s the infographic:

August 28, 2014 | Posted in Food Recovery, School | Comments closed

Who Says Schools Have to Waste Food?!

I was talking about food waste on Minnesota Public Radio today and many of the callers were school or day care workers lamenting their facility’s level of food waste. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking a lot about that topic lately. Then Indiana’s Food Rescue org sent me this inspiring video of a school objecting to throwing away food, which led to an entire school district redistributing nutritious, packaged food.

Given federal caloric and/or food type requirements, school cafeterias have to put certain foods on each tray, even if a child says they don’t want to eat those items. Yet, as we see in South Madison, Ind., that doesn’t mean those foods have to be thrown away. This needs to change. We need to stop teaching kids that wasting food is A-OK, as most schools currently do.

August 20, 2014 | Posted in Food Recovery, School | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

Scary data point of the day: in India, 40 percent of the food by value does not reach consumers. And yes, this is a nation where 47 percent of children are underweight.

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If all eyes are on Boston, they will be so for a while! The (commercial) food waste landfill ban doesn’t kick in until October 1. But it’s still encouraging…

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Good to see bike food rescue getting some love, as Boulder Food Rescue recently received in The Denver Post. What that model lacks in capacity, it makes up for in immediacy and nonexistent carbon impact.

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This Forbes piece provides a succinct rundown on food-waste-to-energy companies out there. That’s anaerobic digestion, if you speak food waste.

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Finally, are you really throwing away banana peels?!? You won’t after seeing this:


August 15, 2014 | Posted in Anaerobic Digestion, Food Recovery, Friday Buffet, International, Waste Ban | Comments closed

Pay It (Food) Forward

You know what’s hard to argue against? Rescuing food doomed for the landfill and redistributing it to those in need. Doing that with healthy produce is even more unassailable.

Food Forward specializes in the latter, recovering fruit and veggies from backyard trees, farmers’ markets and wholesalers in the Los Angeles area. The group, around since 2009,  has an opportunity to rescue more from the latter source, but there’s one small detail–they need a truck. That’s where we come in:

July 29, 2014 | Posted in Food Recovery, Tree Gleaning | Comments closed

Bien fait, Intermarché

I may be the last to write about the brilliant Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign from French supermarket chain Intermarché, but I want to say that it’s the best initiative on food waste I’ve seen from one company.

Selling ugly (moches) fruits and vegetables at a 30% discount after raising awareness with a line of soups and juices from those same types of produce–excellent. Perhaps even better is the execution and design. Have a look:

While this idea has certainly made the rounds in social media, it’s worth spreading the word further. Because, really, all supermarkets could do something similar. And imagine the impact that would have on food waste in the developed world.

So all of you supermarkets out there–especially here in the US!–adapt or even steal Intermarché’s idea. There’s too much at stake, environmentally and hunger-wise, not to try something to trim our food waste. Who knows, it may even bring some buzz to that retailer. After all, ugly is the new black. Ugly is now sexy.

July 25, 2014 | Posted in Campaigns, International, Supermarket | Comments closed

Visualizing UK Waste

Here’s a neat infographic on food waste in Britain, courtesy of Rangemaster. One of the more telling details: 86 million chickens are wasted every year in the UK. What the cluck?!

Another effective part of the infographic is the Wembley Stadium indicator. But it’s worth noting: UK food waste would fill that stadium 8 times per year, while the US would fill the similar-size Rose Bowl every day! America’s larger population alone doesn’t explain that discrepancy, sadly.

July 17, 2014 | Posted in International, Stats | Comments closed

Kids Collar Collards

I rarely find the time to glean, but it’s always a pleasurable, grounding experience. This week, I had that opportunity as I helped supervise a group of 15 campers (from a community service camp!) glean collard greens.

As you can see, we did our best in filling the available delivery vehicles, including my hatchback and the camp’s short bus. All told, we harvested 2,300 pounds of greens in a few hours (with water breaks). And those greens went to five different hunger relief agencies.

I can think of few better ways to spend a morning! Plus, I got to witness the excitement that fresh produce elicited from a few residents at a women’s shelter. Meanwhile, the campers, ages 9 to 12, learned more about farming, our agricultural abundance and those in need (the campers helped prepare the collards at one shelter).

And why would a small farmer have thousands of pounds of collard greens to donate? It’s related to the season, but it’s probably not what you think.

While most folks (myself included) think of collards as a cold weather crop, these ones were not only surviving, but thriving! They were available for donation mostly because of that perception. There’s no real market for collards, as few people want to eat them in the summer. Especially when there’s so much competition from those flashy ‘summer veggies’ (that we all love)…

July 11, 2014 | Posted in Farm, Food Recovery, Gleaning | Comments closed

In Brazil

Bom dia!

Quick programming note: I won’t be posting for the next few weeks, as I’m in Brazil for the World Cup. I’m also doing a bit of research on food waste and the culinary culture here, so hopefully I’ll have some interesting nuggets to share soonish. In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying the soccer. Tchau!

June 20, 2014 | Posted in General | Comments closed

Y is for ‘Yes, Kale Can Look Like That!’

Today, when I was picking greens for dinner, I found another entry for the burgeoning Alphabet Produce series: this Kale Y.

Yes you kale!

I’ve never seen a leafy green have a fork in its own road, but I was glad to see this one. This kale leaf not only checks the ‘Y’ box, it reminds us that real food has quirks (just like us!). When the retail market enforces strict superficial limits on produce, it dooms a large amount of “non-standard” produce to being wasted.

That’s why I encourage you to enjoy deliciously unique produce any chance you can–whether it’s from your own garden, a neighbor’s, or a local farm. A few, stray examples are even creeping into supermarkets. Who knows–maybe this message is getting through: real food has curves!

June 11, 2014 | Posted in Alphabet Produce, Household | Comments closed
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