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

Send Me Your Produce Letters!

I’ve often posted pictures of fruits and vegetables shaped like letters on this blog. You know, alphabet produce.

Until now, I’ve just shared the oddities that I’ve found at farmers’ markets and in my home garden, but I haven’t sought contributions from the outside world. That’s about to change.

Ssssssend me a letter like this!

As of this very moment, I’m trying to create a full produce alphabet. And here’s where you come in: Please send me your pics of fruit and vegetables that look like letters! Anything from A-Z!

Tweet them to @WastedFood or submit them to the Wasted Food Facebook page and please use the hashtag #AlphabetProduce.

I’m working on this project with Portland State University PhD student Renee Curtis (@PDXFoodRecovery) and Jordan Figueiredo of @UglyFruitAndVeg. We plan to curate the images into a full alphabet poster. Ideally, we’ll make this poster available as a download and also get it into as many schools as possible.

But to do that, we need your pictures! So give it a try, Twitterverse. Let the letters fly, Facebook. And remember, without your help, there will be no Produce Alphabet!

January 14, 2015 | Posted in Alphabet Produce, Campaigns, Farmers' Market, Garden | Comments closed

Making Fresh Food Last Longer

We all want to maximize the life of our fresh food, and this infographic from Pounds To Pocket provides plenty of novel ideas for doing so. And I do mean plenty!

Be sure to read the ‘why it works’ explanations. Hope you learn some new tricks!

January 6, 2015 | Posted in Infographic, Stats, Storage | Comments closed

Looking Back, Then Ahead

2014 has been a banner year for fighting food waste. There many successes to celebrate, including those on the policy level: Massachusetts’ ban on commercial food waste to landfills went into effect on October 1, The Milan Protocol included a goal of 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2020, and the USDA streamlined procedures for donating mislabeled meat products.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seems genuinely interested in doing something on the food waste issue. He was quoted in The New York Times thusly:

“I’ve become very sensitized to this because my wife is a relatively small person and I’m a relatively big guy,” Mr. Vilsack said. “She gets the same portion size as I do when we go to a restaurant, and sometimes we take it home but often we don’t because it’s really not the kind of food you can take home.”

Happily, the food waste social campaigns kept building momentum. Who can forget the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign from French supermarket chain Intermarché? And EPA’s Food Too Good To Waste is finally surpassing pilot project status.

Finally, 2014 saw many, many gatherings: from the first two Feeding the 5,000 events in the U.S to the Zero Food Waste Forum to the first academic gathering entirely focused on food waste at UPenn. 

Where do we go from here? We won’t have to wait long for the first changes to take effect. Seattle and Vancouver have waste bans going into effect January 1 (although enforcement won’t be until July in Seattle). And look for more states to declare bans on food waste to landfills. As for other changes, we’ll just have to wait and see. Food Waste World is always full of surprises!

December 31, 2014 | Posted in International, Legislation, Waste Ban | Comments closed

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
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