American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Of Its Food (and what we can do about it)

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | October 6, 2010 11:14 am

4925128893_d36a5c0a2cFor Day 3 of Book Week,  I’m skipping ahead to one I haven’t finished yet, but am currently devouring…  American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Of Its Food (and what we can do about it) by Jonathan Bloom.

I previously posted about this title after the New Scientist piece on food waste I co-wrote with Michael Webber sparked a good deal of interest around the web. (Food waste accounts for a whopping 2 percent of annual energy consumption in the U.S.!).  Naturally I’ve been curious to read Bloom’s perspective considering he’s been pondering the problem since 2005:

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 movements. As the era of unprecedented prosperity comes to an end, it’s time to reexamine our culture of excess.

Working at both a local grocery store and a major fast food chain and volunteering with a food recovery group, Bloom also interviews experts—from Brian Wansink to Alice Waters to Nobel Prize–winning economist Amartya Sen—and digs up not only why and how we waste, but, more importantly, what we can do to change our ways.

So far, American Wasteland is packed with a lot of startling information compiled an an easy to digest package. Bloom presents the topic in an engaging style and tackles related issues from many angles by looking at each step in the process from industry to consumer.  Ultimately he provides real world solutions that might just work to waste less and distribute more–if we makes some big changes.

I’m looking forward to reading on and absolutely recommend American Wasteland. You can learn more about the subject at Jonathan’s blog wasted food.


Comments (3)

Links to this Post

  1. Quick Links | A Blog Around The Clock | October 7, 2010
  1. Thanks for bringing this to the attention of Discover readers.

    For an excellent review, done by an 11 year old girl, of Chew On This (another insightful book on food), see:

    And if you click on the Food topic to the right of the Chew On This review, you will see some other good articles on food, including a great post by Julian Cribb on Why Farmers Need a Pay Raise, as well as posts on Climate Change impact on food production.


    Jay Kimball
    8020 Vision

  2. This looks interesting. When I came here from India I was appalled when I saw how much food was being discarded. Then I realized that it’s partly because of the ridiculously large portions which sometimes forced people to throw them away; thus it’s not just a waste of food but a waste of money. But those who did not throw it away faced the other problem of overeating and obesity. It seems to me that almost every food portion I have encountered here is about 30% too big. Catch-22. Maybe the book addresses the conundrum?


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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