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

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  624 ratings  ·  116 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, 360 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Da Capo Lifelong Books
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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HR-ML
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellent, thought-provoking book, written in 2010.
Hardback edition.

Author, Jonathan Bloom (hereafter Bloom) noted that
people in the US, wasted enough food daily to fill the
90,000 seat football stadium, the Rose Bowl! Likely even
worse in 2018.

Bloom noted that food in landfills, trapped heat caused
methane gas & therefore contributed to global warming.
He tracked food from growing, harvesting & distributing to
groceries & restaurants. Farmers were up against time, the
elements, insects, m
...more
Alexis
Oct 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I found this book really enlightening and eye-opening. I'm an agricultural reporter and people are always talking about how we need to increase agricultural production and feed the world. No one ever talks about how we waste a huge amount of food. The US wastes about half of the food it produces. This is all along the value chain- in farming, supermarkets, restaurants and at home. At home, the average person wastes about 197 pounds of food a year.

Bloom is a good writer and he managed to shed so
...more
Byron
Dec 07, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: agriculture
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
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Lisa
Feb 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Peter
Apr 01, 2014 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Carolyn
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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...
...more
Milan M
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is an all encompassing introduction and deep dive into the various facets of food waste within the United States and various locales around the world. It lays a good foundation for understanding the underpinning of why food waste is so egregious (beyond the simple fact of nourishment being wasted and others starving), the various problems that contribute to food waste - harvesting at the farm, culling due to imperfections, cost to harvest, logistics and perishability, subsidies for mas ...more
Jill Urie
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book! It got a bit long-winded at times. But, again, I liked it! It has caused me to reevaluate a lot of my food habits. And it makes me grateful that I live in a city that does composting. And it makes me sick how much food is wasted before the food even enters my sphere of influence at the grocery store and in my kitchen. Unbelievable.
Eleanor
Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mandy Luke
Oct 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, non-fiction
Everything that you didn't know about American food waste and why you should care. Although somewhat repetitive throughout the book, Bloom does a thorough job of uncovering why Americans are wasting food, how much we are wasting, and why we should stop wasting all this food. I heard about Bloom from a documentary called "Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story" of which Bloom directed. There are a lot of similarities in the documentary and the book. The documentary does a great job of demonstrating the ...more
Susan
Feb 20, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Christina Dudley
Nov 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: urbanfarmjunkie
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.
Colin
Jan 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book on the topic of food waste! Bloom takes us on an incredibly inclusive trip through effectively every avenue food is wasted, offering insights and data behind the curtain of the monstrously large amount of perfectly edible food that doesn't get eaten. Specifically, he literally gets a job at McDonalds, a grocery store and at an anaerobic digestion facility, in addition to visiting multiple farmers and pickers in their fields, going into an average American home for dinner ...more
Victoria
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this book because I thought it would give me solid advice on lowering our food waste, hence lowering our food bill. Although it does give some practical tips on the matter, that is not the book’s purpose. I skipped around and only completely read the chapter on waste in our homes. The book itself focuses on our nation’s food system as a whole and the waste that accumulates from it. It did make me open my eyes to some issues and I have gained some insight (I never knew that leafy ...more
Amelia Stefanac
Dec 01, 2019 rated it liked it
American Wasteland is full of useful interviews and information about food waste. Jonathan Bloom takes us through the cycle of food and investigates all stages at which it is often wasted - from the farm, distributor, grocer and in the home. Interestingly, he spent time working at a supermarket and a McDonalds to more deeply understand the commercial culture of food waste. It provides many potential solutions and examples of positive policies/programs in waste reducion and gives hope, while also ...more
Connie Martin
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it
While I enjoyed the message of the book and the author did a lot of work and research to cover many angles of this topic, I felt that it was very repetitive. Over and over again we were given new citations and statistics to convey roughly the same messages over how much food is wasted at various stages of it's production and use. The author does have a nice voice. If you know nothing about food waste, this is a great place to start. If you know a moderate amount, you may find yourself skimming. ...more
Tome Reader
I don't deny food waste is a big problem in my home. It probably is in your home too.

This book is dry and dense like a fruitcake you'd want to toss out. It's loaded with facts and figures and no pictures and therefore no breaks. Bloom talks about a fascinating subject and focuses hard on the problem, but offers little practical solutions. You kind of have to figure it out yourself. Shop better, plan better, clean your plate and feel guilty.
...more
Jake Woolley
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
American Wasteland discusses the dire need for change in the way Americans deal with food waste. Bloom incorporates hundreds of statistics and facts about food waste, each more shocking than the last. Bloom hopes to challenge his readers to create change themselves after learning about this imminent threat in America's future. Jonathan Bloom's conversational, story-telling style writing creates a more personal connection between reader and speaker. ...more
Mary Davidsaver
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I didn't enjoy reading this book, but the message got across. I checked out my local grocery store for the "misfits" in the produce section and found a cute pineapple. I do my best with conserving water. I'll work on some of the other ideas. I wonder if the author has plans for an updated follow-up to track the changes that have occurred since this was written in 2010. ...more
Brian Lindawson
May 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Brian by: Wayne?
Opened my eyes to another issue that's out there. Makes me more conscious when I'm throwing food away. Like many of these nf books, probably goes on a little too long. Didn't cover enough territory in its 300 pages. ...more
Nat O.
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Obsessed! A few parts of this book were a little repetitive and/or not super interesting, but the majority of it was fascinating and I couldn't put it down. ...more
Amy L. Campbell
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: kirkus-review, 2018
A bit repetitive, good information, though I read it probably five years later than I really should have considering much of data is out of date.
Laura Lee
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. Really well researched and a big eye opener. This is also from someone who considers themself a pretty in the know, crunchy, hippy.
Joni Jameson
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
can't wait to use this in Research class! ...more
Anne
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Informative, shocking and eye opening. There is no shortage of food, there is a gross excess. The challenge is with over production and distribution. And so much is tossed out because it looks imperfect. There is no reason anyone in the US should be hungry or lacking in nutrition due to lack of availability to food. And perhaps there is more than plenty to share with other countries.
Susie Bohun
Feb 28, 2020 rated it liked it
The content is good but it’s very repetitive.
Traci
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
My eyes have been opened. I see that buffet line being re-stocked at 15 min to closing. I commend my local grocery that puts the less beautiful fruit out, for free, for hungry kids to eat while parents shop. I now serve dinner with a smaller spoon, knowing larger portions are setting ourselves up to waste. No major life altering changes, but my grocery bill has begun to creep down so BOOM!
Emily
Feb 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
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Talk Green to Me ...: New food waste ad campaign 1 4 Apr 20, 2016 08:04PM  

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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: http://www.americanwastelandbook.com/ (Author's website, now discontinued)

Librarian Note:
There is more than one author in
...more

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