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Book Review: American Wasteland

Those of you who have been here for more than a week know that food waste is a topic near and dear to my heart. In fact, concern over my own personal food waste was the impetus behind my very first (and now defunct) blog, Confessions of a Recovering Food Waster (that’s the one that gave birth to this blog!).

Back then, I ran across Jonathan Bloom’s blog, Wasted Food, and was thrilled to see that someone else was blogging about food waste too.

He hasn’t just been blogging, though…for several years now, he’s been working on writing a book about food waste, and that book is American Wasteland. When I got back from vacation a few weeks ago, an advance reading copy was waiting for me in my mail pile (isn’t the post-vacation mail fun? It’s kind of like Christmas on a really small scale!).

I think I was the first person other than Bloom himself to get a copy, and I was trying really hard to be the first person to read the whole book, but I’ve been informed that his parents finished it in a weekend.


Anyways, I read the book from cover to cover and was enlightened, inspired, and also a little bit discouraged to learn about the massive food waste that takes place in my country.

I might be getting somewhere close to being an expert on in-home food waste, but Bloom’s expertise goes way beyond that. He does talk about home food waste in his book, but he also delves into the waste that happens on our farms, in our processing plants, in our grocery stores, in our restaurants, and in our cafeterias.

The sheer volume of food that’s wasted in these places is staggering…literal tons of food are thrown away every day. And what’s especially distressing about that is the fact that people in our country are going hungry at the same time. We have all this excess food and it’s not getting to the people that need it.

Well, not all of it is. I was encouraged to learn of the many food recovery efforts going on, both large and small. On the large side are non-profit organizations that send semis to pick up excess produce and on the small side, students on one college campus give their extra cafeteria food to fellow students (this process even has a name…scrounging!).

Of course, the best thing to do with excess food is to give it to people who are hungry, but Bloom says the next best thing is to convert it into something useful by composting it (Amen! You can do this at home for $5.) or turning it into fuel (which, uh, you can’t do at home. At least not here…people in China do it all the time!). I was encouraged to hear about how some restaurants and cafeterias are beginning to compost their waste, and also thrilled to read about how they’re using computer software to reduce the amount of waste they have in the first place.

At the end of the book, Bloom offers a number of great suggestions on how to reduce large-scale food waste, and I hope those suggestions reach the people with the power to change things.

You and I probably are not going to bring about changes that will reduce the waste that pours out of the institutions, but we can start in our own kitchens. Bloom offers some practical tips that mirror my own (plan a menu, eat leftovers, shop with a list, etc.), and even mentions Food Waste Friday (pg. 86, in case you wanted to know!). I’m usually pretty inspired about using up my food, but reading through American Wasteland gave me fresh motivation and I’m quite sure it’ll have the same effect on you.

So, go read it! Buy it from Amazon, reserve it at your library, borrow it from a friend….but read it. If you’re not quite sure why food waste is a big deal, this book will convince you, and if you’re already on the anti-food-waste wagon, this book will offer fresh inspiration.

(just so you know, I have not been paid to review this book. I love to talk about food waste and certainly don’t need monetary compensation to do so! I received an advance reading copy, but that’s all.)

Today’s 365 post: I have to give my tomato plant props.

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Wednesday 20th of October 2010

I'm becoming one of those crazy vermiculturists. I'd like to say to greenearthgoodies that we live near Dan the worm man ( and we have a worm bin. I kept it inside our house (we don't have a garage) all last winter and it was just fine. It doesn't smell at all. Dan makes lovely worm bins out of reclaimed wood, they aren't those ugly plastic things. He gave us two extra containers of worms when we went down there to give to neighborhood kids. And your worms will eat the veggie scraps that are leftover from your broth! A worm bin is especially great for us because I tend to forget to compost, but I'd never forget to feed a pet.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

Wednesday 20th of October 2010

I have two copies of the book. One for giveaway and one for review. I'll go a giveaway contest a week from Monday so that I have a chance to read it through.

It's so pretty!

Katy Wolk-Stanley "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without"


Wednesday 20th of October 2010

Mine is an advance-reading copy, so it has a boring baby blue cover. But the content was still good! :)


Tuesday 19th of October 2010

Kristen, I'll be honest with you, it is unlikely that I will read a book like this. But the point of my comment is that unlike other book reviews performed by other bloggers, I can tell by your enthusiasm in this review that you have a geniune interest in both the subject for which the book was based and its author. In other words, although probably legally necessary, I don't think that you even had to state that you weren't paid to write the review. I really enjoyed reading this post.


Wednesday 20th of October 2010

Oh, I'm glad to hear that. I'm not sure I have to legally say I wasn't paid (I just have to disclose it when I HAVE received compensation for something), but I just always worry that people will wonder, you know?

Westfarm Goat Mom

Tuesday 19th of October 2010

I've loved reading your food waste postings and have thought of adding my own concept for awhile - this will not work for everyone but.... If the food is still crunchy it goes to the goats If it is mushy it goes to the chickens (chickens will eat almost anything but they shouldn't have moldy stuff) If it is moldy it goes to the compost bin

Megan C

Tuesday 19th of October 2010

Did you happen to know that food waste has a specific name? It's ort. Just a little piece of unnecessary trivia I have bouncing around in my brain. :)


Wednesday 20th of October 2010

I did not know that until now! lol

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