Food Waste: Why Is So Much Food Wasted?

Did you know that around 40% of the food we produce gets thrown out? A whopping 40% ! How did that come to be? I know we’re considered to be the ‘throw-away’ society – if it breaks, tears, or tarnishes just buy a new ‘one’ – but food? This really surprised me, with the cost of food rising and with the economy what it is, more and more people are not able to buy even the simplest, healthiest foods.

Jonathan Bloom, a journalist, had an epiphany while volunteering at the DC Central Kitchen 3 years ago. The result was his blog Wasted Food and his upcoming book on the subject. From the farm to your kitchen, Mr. Bloom discusses what he has uncovered from his research of food waste throughout the industrial nations.

Did you have any idea it was this bad? What do you think you could do different? I would love to hear your ideas.

See also: An Abundance of Food, Wasted


  1. says

    I hear you loud and clear, Denay!

    It sounds like we grew up in a similar era. My grandmother made some of the best bread pudding. I do something similar now with the leftover rice -> rice pudding.

    It might have something to do with losing those home economics classes, and something to do with the boon and busyness of the 80’s too. More and more families became 2 income households, less time was spent in the kitchen, maybe because no time was spent at the grocery store unless to pick up a heat-and-serve item.

    It’s time to turn the clock back in some respects. Get back in touch with your food and where it comes from. Learn how to use everything up…casseroles can be tasty too! And if it’s gone-past-saving, then at least compost it. No garden? Maybe a farmer with chickens or pigs could use it, as Jenny Brown says in a comment above. You can get creative about it, if you put your mind to it.

    Any other ideas?

    Maybe some waste can’t be avoided, but what we have going on here in this country (and many other industrialized countries) is just too much food waste, plain and simple.

  2. says

    Wow! I have been thinking about this issue since I saw a huge bin of green, red and yellow peppers at the Raleigh Farmer’s Market being thrown away because they were too ripe and beginning to go bad. I am a down-home cook and canning queen and all I could think of was taking those peppers and making jars and jars of pepper jelly or teaching a group of children or college students to make pepper jelly. There really is no reason to waste aside from the fact there is no one around to take the products and create something with them.

    I am a baby boomer who grew up during a time when little was wasted and I grew up in the city, but I can remember my mom taking leftover meatloaf, chopping it up with cooked rice, caramelized onions, herbs and spices to make stuffed peppers, and creating the best bread pudding known to mankind with stale bread.

    I have been a cooking instructor for over twenty years and I insist that we need to get back to the basics. As far as waste in our individual homes; we can first start to understand serving size and how much our family actually needs to be served. That sort of thing use to be taught in Home Economics/Cooking class, oh yeah budget cuts took away a number of those programs…perhaps even that one. I can’t wait for this book to come out!!

  3. says

    What a great idea, Jenny. Another win/win for those involved.

    It’s really powerful to learn ways people are working together to lessen waste. If anyone else has any ideas to share, I’m all ears!

  4. says

    As a farmer, there usually is not much wasted here. This past summer, I raised two pigs. Aside from there regular diet, I asked my neighbors to save their kitchen “waste”. My pigs were eating great vegetables, fruits, bread, milk, and many other great foods. Besides my neighbors, I went to the local grocery store daily and picked up veggies and fruits that were deemed not marketable. Again, my pigs had an ambrosia of delights to eat. Now that my pigs are harveated, I feed the great throw aways to my chickens. My neighbors that provided me with their waste are being rewarded in some of the bacon I recently brought home.

    If you don’t have livestock to feed your waste to, composting it will be great. If you can’t do either, find someone who can use your leftover waste.

  5. says

    Great idea to save vegetable ‘leftovers’ for soup stock!

    Yes, it is a challenge, But one worth doing. Thanks for sharing, Tricia.

    Any other good ideas?

  6. says

    Well, my hope is that there won’t be food left on plates if we are doing our job!

    Seriously though, if there is, yes, we take our compostable can liners with us to events to try and collect any extra food or compostable waste.

    The bulk of our waste comes from the food prep stage – luckily we share a kitchen with a local soup vendor, and we give all of our leftover vegetable waste to her for making stock.

    The bottom line is that we do everything we can to make sure we use as much food as possible and then compost or donate what we don’t. It will always be a challenge, yet we keep coming up with more creative ways to use ingredients in dishes where we may not have thought to before. I like to think of it as a game!

  7. says

    I’m challenged just cooking and using up all the food for my family of 5!

    Thanks for sharing Fork it Over ( ). What a great resource for people looking to *not* waste their food.

    Do you have a chance to compost any of the food left on plates?

  8. says

    I had no idea how much food was wasted – I thought this was just a problem for me running a small catering business. We usually get stuck with more food than we’d like due to ordering minimums from our purveyors, and if the leftover ingredients can’t be frozen or don’t have a long shelf life, we have to give it away to a shelter.

    Thanks for posting this. I will start reading Jonathan’s blog to understand this issue better and streamline how we use the food we do order. In the meantime, Fork it Over is a great resource for donations!

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