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

School Lunches Healthier, Just as Wasteful

Last week, a Harvard School of Public Health study exploring the impact of recent changes to school lunch came out with mixed news: students are eating more fruits and vegetables, but waste remains a problem.

After the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, new federal standards went into effect for the start of the 2012-2013 school year that increased the availability of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and dictated how much sodium and the kind of milk allowed. Additionally, students were required to take a fruit or vegetable.

image courtesy of TreeHugger.comAnecdotally, school staff said the stricter nutrition guidelines prompted more wasted food. To test that theory, the Harvard researchers conducted plate waste audits in Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 at elementary and middle schools in an urban, low-income area.

The results? Kids are eating more of their entrees (88%) and vegetables (41%) than before. This despite larger serving sizes for vegetables. Fruit consumption remained steady, despite the requirement that students take one piece (55%). That’s the wonderful news for our kids’ future health. 

The bad news: school food waste remains quite high–59 percent of vegetables are trashed! And more milk isn’t consumed, as students weren’t as excited about the shift to the non-flavored, skim or 1% versions.

While waste hasn’t increased, it remains a major issue. As the study concludes:

…the high levels of fruit and vegetable waste have been a continuous problem that warrants serious attention.

And that is how we end up with articles like “No Added Waste with New School Lunch Standards” that, way down toward the end, cite kids dumping 60 to 75 percent of vegetables and 40 percent of fruit.

March 12, 2014 | Posted in Institutional, Legislation, School, Stats | Comments closed

Living Better, Wasting Less

The Guardian normally keeps a keen eye on food waste. Starting this week, though, the UK newspaper has gone one step further by creating the Live Better Challenge.

image courtesy of The GuardianThe seven month editorial project will tackle a new sustainability topic each month. Encouragingly, food waste is up first, and that’s a boon for both home cooks and waste awareness.

Stop in for a spot of history and pull up a chair at the chef’s table for the entertaining piece by a very waste-conscious chef practicing “Root To Fruit” cooking. For starters, you can get ideas on what do with bread ends and learn about using odds and ends to make stock or ask the Dinner Doctor your own question.

Next, the hearty infographic will fill you up with food waste knowledge. And for dessert, try this entertaining and evolving piece by a writer trying to live off what’s in her fridge and pantry for a week.

After that full meal, you’re probably ready to take the challenge! Don’t forget to take a quiz to see whether you’re a “food warrior or food waster.”

Finally, in a tactic that hopefully continues, the site informs on food waste while retaining a drop of humor:

It’s a waste of our money, it’s bad for the environment – and the 86 million chickens that are thrown away without being eaten each year can’t be particularly chuffed about it either

March 4, 2014 | Posted in Household, International, Leftovers | Comments closed

New Numbers on US Food Waste

In case you missed Friday’s big news, the USDA released a new food waste study! Here are some of the key findings combined with corresponding analysis.

Finding: 31 percent of the available food supply at retail and consumer level were not eaten.

What it means:
Obviously, we’re wasting a lot of food! Yet, as the authors note on page 11, the total food waste is even greater because the 31 percent doesn’t include the abundant farm loss or waste between farm and retailer. So this recent finding jibes with the widely-used stat that we waste 40 percent of our food. In fact, it’s even more likely, given that this overall estimate represents an increase from the 29 percent in the 2012 USDA study and 27 percent figure in  the 1997 USDA report.

Finding: Twice as much waste occurs on the consumer level as on the retail level.

What it means: We, as individuals, are really wasteful! When it comes to cutting food waste, we’d all be well served by looking at the [person] in the mirror (R.I.P. Michael). Having said that, I do think retail food waste numbers tend to be underreported.

Finding:  The largest amount of food we waste (in dollars) is meat, poultry and fish.

What it means: This category represents 30 percent of our loss–Shame on us! If we’re going to condone the killing of animals to provide sustenance, the least we can is eat that animal protein.

Finding: 387 billion total calories are wasted every day!

What it means: There’s an extra 1,249 calories per person available every day. Now, some people need to decrease consumption rather than add calories. But there are still about 50 million food insecure Americans who’d certainly benefit from having more available food.

Other thoughts: The report has an impressive amount of discussion on the causes of food waste. For example, check out the handy Causes of Food Loss and Waste list on page 5. And there’s a nice bit of commentary on how food loss impacts food prices on page 7. Finally, there may be one bit of good news here: “added sugar and sweeteners” are among the most highly wasted food categories (measured by calories lost).

 

February 25, 2014 | Posted in Household, Stats | Comments closed

Visualizing Food Waste VII

This may set the record for the longest infographic ever, but it covers plenty of ground! Not sure I’d characterize food waste as a plague, but I’m a traditionalist with that word (Bubonic, locusts, etc.)

Overall, it makes for neat viewing. The most eye-opening stat: The average supermarket tosses $2,000 of goods past their “sell-by” date every day!

Facts About Food Waste
For further info, check out the original Facts About Food Waste post.

February 20, 2014 | Posted in Stats, Supermarket | Comments closed

Better Luck Next Year

Figuring out the EU food waste stance has never been easy. There’s the European Parliament, European Commission, EU FUSIONS and more. Yet, I thought I had one thing figured out: 2014 was going to be a key year. It was going to be the European Year Against Food Waste.

Wrong.

While keeping track of the exact details is tricky, here’s what we know: In 2012, there was a push to make 2013 the year, but that didn’t happen. Later that year, the European Parliament called on the European Commission (more of an executive branch) to declare 2014 the European Year Against Food Waste. There seemed to be some optimism and even definitive reports to that effect.

Kindly Disregard This Logo

One of the reason for optimism: The EP designed these neat graphics. And because they did, we’re all beneficiaries. They remind me of the 1986 Red Sox World Series Champions patch my dad owns (For the uninitiated, let’s just say that Red Sox were not champions that year).

Yet, I didn’t see anything year-of-waste-releated during January. And then I got the news that I’d long feared–2014 would not be the Year Against Food Waste.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. On the upside, though, the news item declared that the Year Against Food Waste has been postponed. So maybe 2015 will be the year. All they have to do is edit the 4 into a 5…

February 17, 2014 | Posted in International, Legislation | Comments closed

Wormiture

If your furniture could compost food, why shouldn’t it? Form and function are nice, but how about adding even more function?! Since you’re probably going to have furniture in your home anyway, why not fill it with composting worms?

Those were a few of the questions that informed the Vermiculture Furniture course at Ohio State.* The ten-week class was a collaboration between architecture and art professors and it invited students from many disciplines to “design with the compost cycle in mind, and invite worms into the home.”

In the class, students designed home items to house red wigglers, the standard food-scrap-chomping worms. The designed worm habitats included rethinking the sink to include composting scraps, a decorative vermicomposting pottery and a scrap-depositing chopping block.

The class and the results remind us that design can play a proactive role in keeping food out of landfills. And that a little unconventional thinking is long overdue! When 97 percent of our food scraps end up in landfills, it’s time to seek new answers.

Best of all, the class produced an excellent final product, illustrating their work–the Worms in Our Furniture “vermibook:”

*Food waste must really be in the air at Ohio State, as some students and dining services employees are calling for more action on the topic.

February 11, 2014 | Posted in College, Composting, Vermiculture | Comments closed

You Say Bad Tomato, I Say Mostly Edible

It’s always good to keep in mind that a tomato with a bad spot…

…usually just has a bad spot, and is otherwise flawless:

January 29, 2014 | Posted in Household | Comments closed

The Compost Bowl

It might be a white Super Bowl, but it’ll definitely be a green-ish one. For the first time, food scraps from the Super Bowl will be composted.

That’s not a huge suprise, given that MetLife Stadium, host of this Sunday’s big game, has separated and composted food waste for two years. Still, it will be nice to see composting happen on such a grand (and cold) stage.

The composting will happen under the auspices of the NFL environmental programs, which has a five-tiered program for the Super Bowl. Minimizing the materials sent to landfills is one pillar, as is prepared food recovery. As NFL environmental program head Jack Groh told me, the NFL has been donating edible but unsold Super Bowl concession food to local charities for 20 years.

Given the NFL’s history of donation, it’s surprising that composting hasn’t happened sooner. The lack of composting has likely stemmed from a lack of awareness and stadium infrastructure. And so there’s even more reason to celebrate Sunday’s composting. It’ll mean 7 to 8 tons of food kept out of the landfill. And that will be just super.

January 27, 2014 | Posted in Composting, Events, Food Recovery | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

Boom! Rhode Island’s state legislature proposes a landfill food waste ban and the private sector leaps into action, with news of a planned composting facility near Providence.

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I really enjoyed this Food Hacks piece on regrowing food from the ends and other undesirable parts of herbs and veggies. If I had any use for carrot greens, I’d definitely grow them from carrot ends. Although, in reality, I seldom cut off the ends of carrots…

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There’s been a decent amount of talk about supermarkets turning to composting contraptions like the Harvester. There’s this TakePart article, for which I was a source, and then the King 5 news story below. Overall, it’s a positive trend, but reducing waste and donating unsellable food should take precedence over any form of composting.


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On a similar note, hoteliers are warming up to composting machines.

January 24, 2014 | Posted in Composting, Household, Legislation, Supermarket, Technology | Comments closed

V is for V-Carrot

This past summer I shared several examples of alphabet produce. While I haven’t seen many of those wonderful oddities recently, given the decreased homegrown and farmers’ market produce, I recently came across this beauty on my last market outing:

This carrot makes a great ‘V’ and could even double as an ‘A.’ It also makes a perfect ‘greater-than’ (or ‘less-than’) sign. As in:  Carrot-with-character > regular carrot.

The internet tells me that you can use double symbols to emphasize your point, so:     V-carrot >> regular carrot.

And if you really want to get crazy, you could even use it as a circumflex (ˆ). Whatever you see in this humble carrot, though, it’s a good reminder that real food has curves. Or sometimes 30 degree angles…

January 16, 2014 | Posted in Alphabet Produce, Farmers' Market | Comments closed
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