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

Vancouver Hoovers Up Food Waste

January 1 is a great day to be a Vancouver trash collector. Starting then, the regular trash will be blessedly free of food waste.

A city-wide ban on disposing food in landfills goes into effect in 2015. While the practice will technically be outlawed, Metro Vancouver won’t begin fining anyone for six months, and even longer for high-rise buildings. As of now, the city is pursuing outreach, support and advice to citizens, using the “Food Isn’t Garbage” message, conveyed by these guys

Banning food from landfills tends to lead to the the old ‘carrot vs. stick’ discussion. That very question is raised in a piece on whether or not to ban garburators. Given that Vancouverites are voluntarily ramping down usage, there may not be a need for a ban.

One could make the same argument for Vancouver food waste separation, given the city’s incredibly high recycling rate (60 percent) and its existing organics recycling infrastructure (which is a common rationale for instituting landfill organics bans!). Currently, 95 percent of single-family homes have curbside food waste collection! Instead, Vancouver lawmakers decided they couldn’t wait for slow change, and legislated food waste out of landfills.

Finally, it’s worth noting the varying media framing on the landfill ban. This also occurred in several New England states with similar bans, but I’m always amazed how the same news is handled differently in two publications. For example, there’s “Food Banned from…Trash” and then “Food Waste to be Separated from Garbage.” That’s quite a difference for the same end result.

At least it’s an environmentally sound, happy end result.

December 19, 2014 | Posted in Anaerobic Digestion, International, Waste Ban, Waste Stream | Comments closed

A Protocol Worth Pushing

I spent the last few days in Milan at the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition 2014 Forum on Food and Nutrition (you can watch the food waste panel). It was thrilling to be a part of a gathering with the humble little goal of reforming our global food system.

How does the BCFN plan to have such an impact? Via the Milan Protocol, which they launched at the Forum. The Milan Protocol is a global initiative to be officially unveiled at Expo 2015 (also in Milan) that pushes for reforms in three main areas:

  1. Food Waste: parties commit to a 50 percent reduction by 2020 of the over 1.3 billion tons of edible food waste
  2. Sustainable Agriculture: parties commit to promote sustainable forms of agriculture and food production, paying particular attention to environmental, agricultural and socioeconomic issues.
  3. Eradicate Hunger and Fight Obesity: parties commit to eliminate hunger and undernutrition by implementing a series of actions…

First of all, I think there’s a reason that food waste is at the top of the list. It does seem like the most concrete step. Then again, I’m a bit biased.

Secondly, halving food waste by 2020 is incredibly ambitious! Then again, why the heck not? It’s time to get serious on food issues and its human and environmental impact. Plus, the Protocol pushes for adopters to cut their waste by 50 percent, not for a global halving of food waste.

Also, you should know that its framers created the Milan Protocol to address three absurd global paradoxes:

  • We waste one third of the world’s food.
  • We channel more than one third of all food production is channeled to feed animals and automobiles (via biofuels).
  • Hunger and obesity coexist. There are now two obese and overweight people for every malnourished one.

What’s next? Well, it’s not officially finished. It’s now up to “civil society” to comment on it and the final version will be presented at Expo 2015. In the meantime, the BCFN is looking for as many endorsements as it can get. So you can add your name or your organization to an impressive list that includes celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Slow Food International.

December 5, 2014 | Posted in Environment, International, Personal | Comments closed

Thanksgiving Assistance

T-minus one week until T-Day. You ready for Thanksgiving?

Preparing Thursday’s meal is likely to be labor intensive. But what doesn’t have to be hard is determining how much food to buy for the big day.

There’s no need to stress over the size of the turkey or the number of pies needed (hint: the answer is always ‘a lot’) because the good people at Personal Creations have created a personalizable Thanksgiving Food Calculator.

I like how the calculator provides several options to help us arrive at a decent estimate, including appetites and drink preferences. Chief among those options, though, is how much leftovers, if any, you desire. And I have a hunch that very few folks are silly enough to shun spare stuffing and turkey on Friday, the de facto National Leftovers Day!

Shifting gears–I’m sure you don’t need much reminding on this topic, but let’s all remember that not wasting food on and around Thanksgiving is massively important. It’s very uncool to squander food on the day devoted to appreciating all that we have. It’s even less cool to do so knowing that about 50 million Americans are food insecure.

With that unfortunate reality in mind, it is imperative that we not squander our holiday food. Yet, it’s equally vital that we enjoy–really savor–our Thanksgiving feast. Let’s love our food, family and friends. Just don’t forget to plan ahead to avoid wasting food.


November 20, 2014 | Posted in Household, Hunger | Comments closed

NYT Food For Tomorrow

Yesterday I was at Tomorrow. The Food For Tomorrow conference, to be more precise. Here’s the footage from the food waste panel I populated with Dana Gunders and Doug Rauch:

November 13, 2014 | Posted in General | Comments closed

Feeding the 5000s

In the last ten days, Feeding the 5000 events have fed close to 10,000 Americans.

First, there was Oakland. Then Chapel Hill. Different coasts, different gatherings, but the same outcome–a public feast from food that would have gone to waste.

I was fortunate enough to participate in both of these gatherings, whose name nods at the New Testament. The idea is the brainchild of the Britain-based Feedback. While the group has held many such events in Europe, this month marks a new, American phase of the anti-food waste movement.

The Oakland event, organized largely by End Food Waste, featured a delicious sweet potato curry soup, site-made smoothies and a bread and produce give away. All told, the event made use for more than 11,000 lbs (5.5 tons!) of food that otherwise would have been discarded. An incredible result, prompted by the hard work of many volunteers.

There were several organizations and related groups tabling, and awareness-raising speeches from food waste authors and activists and cooking demos from local chefs. Even the Mayor of Oakland addressed the crowd, which was a mixed collection of people, but included a decent amount of food insecure folks.

A few days later, the Feeding the 5000 event at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill was different in all but the idea. Organized by Carolina Dining Services, the event happened in a central campus location–The Pit. Not surprisingly, there was a massive turnout for a quite elaborate menu because, what student doesn’t like a free meal?

In all, 7,500 people ate lunch and hopefully saw the signs communicating that the Jamaican Fish Stew came from bycatch, the vegetable curry featured gleaned veggies and the Brunswick Stew included hog jowls that might not have been used. An awareness event was held later that night at UNC with full presentations on the day’s details and the bigger picture.

It’s almost a given, but it’s worth noting that for both events, the unserved food was sent to local soup kitchens.

No matter the setting, I expect these kinds of food waste awareness events to become more common. Hope to see you at a public feast sooner rather than later!

October 27, 2014 | Posted in College, Events | Comments closed

Spindly Sweet Potatoes

You know I love me some quirky produce. Well, I found these sweet potatoes at the farmers’ market and was excited by their serpentine shape. It’s as if they just couldn’t stop growing!

And you wouldn’t believe this, but not only were they edible, they were delicious! Actually–to be more accurate–they tasted no different than any “regular-shaped” sweet potato. And that’s the whole point.

October 14, 2014 | Posted in Alphabet Produce, Farmers' Market | Comments closed

Mass Change: Massachusetts Food Waste Ban Begins

Last week, Massachusetts took a major step toward becoming a state where no food waste hits the landfill. As of October 1, any entity producing more than 1 ton of food waste per week isn’t allowed to simply throw it away. That applies to restaurants, universities, hospitals and a variety of other operations.

If all goes well, there are plans to apply this food waste landfill ban to residential and other commercial generators, as Vermont has pledged to do by 2020.

There’s been a bit of confusion on two counts. Most importantly, the law doesn’t mean that these places are required to compost food. It means that they can’t throw food away. Ideally, that means more attention paid to reducing waste, donating excess food or sending it to livestock.

And Massachusetts is not the first state to enact such a partial ban. Connecticut and Vermont already have similar bans in action. Still, kudos to the Bay State for being an early adopter in what hopefully becomes a national trend.

And just to give a sense of the impact of the rule change, here are a few related stories:

October 6, 2014 | Posted in Anaerobic Digestion, Composting, Energy, Legislation, Waste Ban | Comments closed

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
  • Buy the Book

    CBA Winner Badge