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American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  400 ratings  ·  85 reviews
What Tom Vanderbilt did for traffic and Brian Wansink did for mindless eating, Jonathan Bloom does for food waste. The topic couldn’t be timelier: As more people are going hungry while simultaneously more people are morbidly obese, American Wasteland sheds light on the history, culture, and mindset of waste while exploring the parallel eco-friendly and sustainable-food mov ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Da Capo Lifelong Books (first published 2010)
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8th out of 43 books — 41 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,846)
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Byron
When I saw this at the library I was pretty excited. Getting home I read about two-thirds and had to give up for a couple of reasons. The book fails to really explain the food waste problem, instead it seems Bloom felt he had enough blog posts describing food waste that he could assemble them, poorly, into a book.

I feel a good book on food waste would have said, "We waste food for reasons A, B, C, etc, and we can solve this by doing X, Y, Z." Instead, American Wasteland says a little about A, a
...more
Leslie
This book had the most profound influence on my thinking and behavior of any book I will read this year. The reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that it's not a classic that I will want to reread in future decades.

I heard about and read this book because Bloom was a graduate student in journalism at UNC. As expected, he's a good writer and illustrates his points with compelling and easy-to-read stories.

Here are some of the really important things I learned from this book:
- anaerobic decomposition
...more
Peter
This book had its flaws (I found it a bit too long, and sometimes he didn't see past his central issue--e.g. is prison labor really part of the way to end food injustice?). But it's also really enlightening and engaging. I did not understand the scale of our food waste, all along the supply chain, not the scale of the environmental damage wrought even by biodegradable waste in landfills. Important stuff.
Lisa
We waste very little food at my house, so I find it hard to believe that Americans let almost half of our food go to waste. The author explains many of ways food go to waste in this interesting easy to read book. One of the big food wastes is that produce never makes it out of the fields unless it is perfect--it simply gets plowed under. OK, I know I am not going to buy any produce unless I am sure it is really good. I love really good produce, fruit especially and I want it to be the best. I ca ...more
Eleanor
As if I was going to give this any less than 5 stars given that it is the first book (to my knowledge) in which I am personally thanked in the acknowledgments. Interestingly, this book has also inspired more chatter on public transit than any book in recent memory. I confess that in each instance I was unable to resist dropping that the author was, you know, a close personal friend. And then I would follow-up such encounters by texting Jon who is, you know, a close personal friend to tell him ab ...more
Carolyn
This book touches on a subject dear to me, because I really hate food waste. Having been broke in my life as some of the people the author refers to in his book, I think twice about throwing food away.
I found many of the chapters fascinating, especially the one on restaurant waste.
However, some of his suggestions were crazy-liberal. Right, we need a food waste Czar. That's just great...
Christina Dudley
Very interesting and not entirely disheartening discussion of tremendous waste in the American food chain, from field to store to restaurant and home. Inspiring suggestions to make changes.
MacKenzie Korsi
American Wasteland opened my eyes to a huge problem that I didn't know much about in the U.S. I knew our country wasted a lot of food, but I didn't understand that we throw away an incomparable amount of food along the entire process of food production. Bloom makes the waste problem much easier to understand by including many examples. This book, however, was also very long and dry in certain parts. Although the content was interesting, if you plan to read this book, be prepared to reach parts ...more
Camille Mccarthy
In an odd turn of events, I accidentally left this book open on the couch and when I left for a few minutes and returned, my dog had already torn out a huge chunk of pages and was working on the rest. I decided to use the pages as bedding for the worms in the compost bin I just finished constructing as a fitting end-use of this destroyed book. Thankfully I was still able to finish it as he left the last section intact.
I really liked the subject for this book. He was able to get a few really in
...more
Jen
Things I felt were positive about this book:
Bloom does a good job of outlining how much of our food goes to waste in the United States and brings attention to this moral issue. He offers solutions on both a governmental and personal level.

Things that kept me from giving this book more stars:
It took me a really long time to get into this book. It's a lot to digest (pun intended), especially in the beginning.
Bloom is not as funny as he thinks he is. I don't mind humor, but I felt at times that his
...more
Oliver
American Wasteland is an eye-opening culmination of research intended to show where and why such a great deal of food produced in America goes to waste, and what we as a society can do to minimize it. Bloom touches on more obvious areas of waste, such as restaurant excess and damaged goods at supermarkets, but he also reveals forms of food loss that most people would probably be surprised to find out about. For example, perfectly edible food may not even make it out of the fields if it shows the ...more
Melanie
I give this book 3 stars because I think the subject is really important and I want people to educate themselves about food waste. However, this was more of a 2.5 reading experience. The book was repetitive in places. I got the sense that the author was young; even though there's absolutely nothing wrong with a young author, I think it undermines credibility for the author to come across as young to the reader. The book is well researched and documented, so I'm not sure what caused that percepti ...more
Emily
The book was overdue at the library, so I don't have it here to refer to as I write this. Amazing how frustrating that is...maybe I need to take better notes...

Anyway, Mr. Bloom brings out some astonishing facts and figures regarding the amount of edible food (or food that was edible at one point) we discard here in the good ol' U. S. of A. For example, according to various studies, Americans may waste up to half of the available food in this country. It could happen because we take advantage of
...more
Katie
This was a surprisingly well researched and written book about the various aspects of food waste in America. I couldn't imagine how the author could fill an entire book with information about food waste. I was surprised to learn how many aspects of food waste can be quantified, studied, discussed and alleviated! The amount of food Americans and the American food system wastes is staggering. We are not alone in this, but other countries seem to be making more effort to reduce to food waste. From ...more
Claire
I have always disliked wasting food. That is a value instilled in me early on by my parents who hate waste of any kind. This book was just over 300 pages long and all about food waste, so with hindsight I think it may be a good example of preaching to the converted. This is specifically about food waste in the US, where I now live. As a Brit, I am regularly astounded at the portion size in restaurants here, and disappointed with how long the “fresh” produce from supermarkets lasts in my fridge a ...more
Melanie
This book might have been worth 2.5 stars if I were feeling generous, but compared to Brian Wansink's Mindless Eating and Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic (both of which I've read), this book was a terrible disappointment. Clearly the author has no grasp of economics whatsoever, and this book is a disorganized nightmare. After reading the whole thing, I'm not sure what his point is. In the US, too much food is wasted from the fields, to the processors, to the distributors, to the retailers, to the consu ...more
L.J.
American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)
Jonathan Bloom, Da Capo, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7382-1364-4

Since the Great Depression and the world wars, the American attitude toward food has gone from a "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" patriotic and parsimonious duty to an orgy of "grab-and-go" where food's fetish and convenience qualities are valued above sustainability or nutrition. Journalist Bloom follows the trajectory of Ame
...more
Marta
Honestly, I didn't know much about food waste prior to reading this book, and I found it to be an accessible, well-researched book. It has definitely modified the ways I interact with the food in front of me in restaurants, supermarkets, and my refrigerator, and a lot of works on food security/sustainability/justice I've come across don't address food waste directly, so I was happy to finally come across this book. The statistics in this book are staggering and I could get behind a lot of the so ...more
Andres
The second book about food waste I've read this month, and this is just as interesting as the first one. While the other book has a more global look at the problem (and emphasis on the UK), with lots of facts and statistics, this book focuses on the United States (with one chapter on the UK for comparison) and gets across the wide range of problems with food waste by focusing on individual people and their stories.

As I've learned from both these books (and I recommend reading both as a great big
...more
Wendy
This was a very good book with very good content. IT really made me look at food in a different light. We have 5 children and we try our hardest to not waste food, but now when something does have to go in the trash or down the garbage disposal I think about it more. It doesn't just dissappear from our lives. I realize it has an environmental impact.

Even before reading this book my husband and I have strolled past dumpsters late at night. Often we find food that is "out of code" but there was n
...more
Jen Mcgovern
My mom found this book in our basement and gave it to me--I've long been interested in the topic if food waste so I decided to check it out. I don't think the book is particularly well written as a lot of the information seemed repetitive and because I thought the author's sense of humor was a little corny. Despite that I felt like I still learned something about the topic and am motivated to do more. I appreciated the authors' suggestions for changes at the personal and institutional level.
JC
How much food do you throw in the garbage. Probably way too much, like every one else in America. This book is a huge eye opener about how much food is really wasted every day and how we don't even see the consequences that it's having on us and will have on our future. Jonathan Bloom is what I would consider an expert on the subject after several years of research and experiencing things first hand - he took jobs in the fast food industry and the grocery industry to research the topic.

The best
...more
Jo
Everyone should read this book. The amount of food we waste daily is shocking and just plain wrong. With millions starving, disposing of edible food is sinful and when one considers the resources required to grow and transport food to consumers, it is doubled waste.


It takes 15 tons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of red meat.

An estimated 32 percent of fresh vegetables in supermarkets, restaurants, and households is wasted.

The average US supermarket produce item travels 1500 miles before it arriv
...more
Nicole
Bloom's incredibly in-depth analysis on food waste was eye-opening. Some reviewers said that it was a bit lengthy, but I feel to the contrary. He studied many areas of our "food industrial complex" and showed where everyone from farmers to supermarkets to restaurants can start to curb their food waste. His suggestions for our country (slightly based off of the UK at times) are bold and progressive. We should all look at how to respect our food and planet more. Previous generations had a higher r ...more
Susan
Very heavy on statistics and a bit dry at times, but fascinating look at food waste in the United States. It definitely affected how I look at my small part (I noticed trying to use up restaurant leftovers and have been thinking about using my bread loaf ends to make bread crumbs). However the real waste is on a macro level, not micro, and that is eye-opening. Change needs to happen on a global scale and Bloom does a great job painting the whole picture.
Nikki
This book could have used a really strong editor as there was lots of repetition and the organization could have been tightened up. Still I think everyone in America should read it because we should be ashamed of what we let go to waste when so many of our people are going hungry, not to mention the environmental impacts of our wastefulness. Respect Food!
Ricardo
Aug 01, 2011 Ricardo rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Environmentalists, Grocery shoppers
Through the process of producing food to the final stage of eating it, the author explains the way food is wasted and the steps we can take to avoid that waste and to improve the use of the food we have. This is a book about decisions we make in our every day life and the way they affect not just our budget but the environment. There are many suggestions and ideas proposed to keep the landfills as free of food waste as possible, from eating your leftovers to the process of food waste through ana ...more
Taylor
Bloom definitely changed the way I look at the food on my plate, and while his writing is repetitive (I get the feeling this is probably a compilation of his essays, and thus not entirely cohesive) he is quite entertaining and enlightening. The more conservative side of me doesn't necessarily support forcing companies to comply with some of Bloom's "solutions" but I think that citizens of the US as a whole needs to be more educated on exactly how much we are wasting and what we can do personally ...more
Michael Berman
Very interesting book at the myriad ways that we waste food in this country. They range from the perfect-looking crops left in the field (either because they might not be "perfect" enough to be selected in the supermarket or because there aren't enough workers to harvest them) to the food thrown out by grocery stores to the half pomegranate sitting in your fridge (yes, I'm talking to you).

The amount, variety, and causes of this waste stream are staggering, and the author's prescriptions for what
...more
Maxine
A good book on an excellent topic. However it gets bogged down by repetitive stories and could have done with tighter editing. 50 pages shorter and this would have been a 5-star read. Even with that, though, this is a must-read topic and one that isn't nearly spoken about enough.
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Jonathan Bloom is a journalist and blogger who created WastedFood.com. American Wasteland, published in October 2010 by Da Capo Press, is his first book. He lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife, son, dog, composting worms and many, many containers for leftovers.

Source: Author's website.
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