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WWL:The Food We Throw Away
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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In this episode:

Americans could fill the Rose Bowl every three days with the food they throw away.


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48:59 minutes (23.52 MB)
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The average American wastes more than half a pound of food every day. That’s 29 million tons of food waste every year. Some researchers estimate that as many as 40 percent of the food produced for consumption in America never gets eaten. So why does it matter and what can we do about it?

Today, Where We Live, a look at the culture and the consequences of food waste. From billions of dollars squandered to rotting food and global warming, we’ll look at what communities around the country are doing to reduce or reuse the food they throw away. We’ll be joined by journalist and blogger Jonathan Bloom, whose blog Wasted Food chronicles the food waste problem in America. We’ll also find out what the hospitality industry is doing to shrink their food footprint. And for that food that does find its way to the dumpster---there’s an entire underground culture of people living off of what their neighbors throw away. Jeff Ferrell, author and dumpster diver tells us what the dumpster can teach us about over-consumption in America.


This program originally aired on August 11, 2009.

Related Content:

Food waste

I happened to be at the college in Farmington, ME several weeks ago attending a seminar.  They did not have any trays in the cafeteria.  It was explained to us that the school is trying to become totally "green".  They chose to remove the cafeteria trays, and student simply fill their plates and take them to the table to eat.  The school has discovered that there is far less waste since the students cannot overload their plates, and put more food on the tray than they really eat.  I thought it was an excellent idea, and don't know if this is done at any other public institution or school.

Just thought I'd mention it.

Food Waste


Great show!  Wish I had the time to call.  Anyway, I am a dumpster diver.  Now live in Chile where there is not much to dive for.  Previously I saved hundreds monthly.  I am a GIS specialist and make good money but hate to see good food go to waste. This enabled me to eat meat guilt free, save money and feel better about my footprint on the planet.  Milk, eggs, chocolate, tea, coffee, fruits, veggies, ect.  Many still in original, clean, intact containers.

Another aside, I work with a local humane society in Chile.  The local grocery chain until last month donated literally tons of outdated meat yearly to our organization.  This fed out 120+- dogs, 15+- cats.  An international chain bought up the local chain and now this meat goes to the landfill.  The local manager told me they were following the Walmart model, in that this meat was a liability and could sicken somebody and this easy to dump then to donate.

thanks again,


wasted food

Perhaps we need to change our relationship with food and view eating more as nourishment rather than just something to do (i.e., eat to live, not live to eat).  This would solve more than the problem of wasted food, but also obesity that plagues this country of excess.  Most children seem to eat to live and not vice versa.  We should follow their lead.

I have a 3 year old with many food allergies and I too have discovered I am sensitive to many foods.  This has dramatically changed the way we eat in our house, as we must prepare/cook nearly everything we consume.  We now eat nearly all fresh foods - meats, veggies, fruits - things that will go bad if not consumed fairly quickly.  It takes more time and I am at the grocery store more often (2-3 days/week), but since I am there anyway, I don't buy in bulk, and instead buy what we will eat before it goes bad.   Of course, we are also consuming more organic foods, which are more expensive, so I am determined not to waste any or very little of this food.  I admit that since we have such limited choices, I also have to and do view food for what it is and can provide us: nourishment.  When I pick up a banana, it not only looks delicious, it looks like a bunch of potassium, B vitamins, and vit. C.  Even the occassional sweet potato chips look like a bowl of vitamin A.  It makes me feel good knowing we are putting healthy foods in our body and only eating as much as we need to be healthy.   

To save some time (and food), I cook two to three times the meat we will consume at one meal (e.g., grilled chicken or turkey burgers), freeze leftovers right away on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.  Once frozen, I place them all in glass containers in the chest freezer and they can be individually removed for thawing/eating.  You can freeze nearly any food that has been cooked and use later.  In addition, if I buy too much fruit (berries or bananas) and notice them not being eaten, I prepare them (peel bananas, wash berries) and freeze them as well.  I find I can always use them for something later: smoothies or baking.   

Listener email from Peter

There is a national good samaritan law that allows food donations.
It was based on California's good samaritan law that was passed after Bay Area food rescue non-profits like Food Runners and Oakland Potluck lobbied for it.

Methane generation in the landfill is a big problem from food waste.
Methane is 20 to 70 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Professor Sally Brown at Washington State University has calculated that if the average family composted their food waste instead of landfilling it for a year is equivalent to not driving the average car 6000 miles per year.

Listener email from Nancy

I have a quick comment regarding large restaurant portions - I love them.  I go to a couple of favorite restaurants that give huge portions.  The food is delicious.  I eat what I can and bring the rest home for usually two more meals.  That makes the restaurant prices reasonable for the amount of food I get and saves me from cooking a couple of days when I can just warm up a restaurant meal.  I hope portions are NOT reduced in those places.

Listener email from Alicia

Good morning. 
Regarding food waste.  I have two little children (1 and 2) who are very unpredictable eaters.  Both of them are quite small so we end up making food than they need pretty regularly in hopes that they will actually eat more than they do.  Rarely, my two year old will eat more than her regular portion and it kills me to run out of food. We end up throwing out a lot of leftovers.  One thing that has helped is that we have recently purchased a chest freezer and invested in freezer bags and this has helped.  We often freeze leftovers to give them on days that we choose to prepare meals for ourselves that they don't like to eat. 

Way we live: food waste


I was listening to the show and it was great to know the good work and effort the Non profit orgs are doing to redistribute the wood that is edible. I was wondering if composting the edible food is a very good option, I agree food waste (the non edible parts like stems etc) makes good compost should be recycled in out food chain. What I think is even more important is we should put our energies in saving food at the first place rather than efforts at taking edible food to the compost.

I think the converstaion was skewed to ecofreindly disposal rather than ways and means to avoid getting into situations of having to put the food into a compost pit.



Food Not Bombs- how to get involved

food waste in the household

My boyfriend and I find that we sometimes throw out a lot of food (expecially fruit) that has gone bad before we could eat it. We try not to buy too much food for the both of us but unfortunitally it does happen from time to time. Since we live in an apartment we do not have an outside place for a compost. Is there a farm in New Haven (or surrounding area) that we could drop this food off to?