Jonathan Bloom is a journalist and blogger who created WastedFood.com. His book on food waste, American Wasteland, will be published in October by Da Capo Press. He lives in Durham, North Carolina with his wife, son, dog, composting worms and many, many containers for leftovers. Jonathan and Ashley both grew up in Wellesley, but lost touch after Sunday School.
Q: You are THE voice on wasted food – how did wastedfood.com come to be?
A: I’m pretty sure I don’t warrant those capital letters, but thanks. I grew up in a food-obsessed family, and as a journalist, I was drawn to all aspects of the topic. When I discovered how much food isn’t used it just seemed so foolish—that so much perfectly good food is thrown away when so many don’t get enough. I decided that the best way I could affect change was by writing a book on the topic of food waste. I started the blog as a way to share what I was learning in my research, get my name out there and, ultimately, get a book deal. It’s been a fun ride.
Q: I get so much of my information from your blog…how and where do you get YOUR information?
A: In addition to my network of spies, I rely on the internet. You’d be amazed what a few Google alerts can do! While I was joking about the espionage, I do get plenty of helpful tips from readers. That wasn’t the case early on, but I’ve met some like-minded folks over the years, and I always appreciate the old ‘heads up’ on a story.
Q: The ‘Produce Project’ is of particular interest to Spoonfuls, since produce is our focus…tell us about it.
A: It’s more an alliteration than an ongoing project, but it’s the story of my time working in a supermarket produce department. In order to really understand how the industry thinks and behaves, I spent three months working in a grocery store. It was eye-opening, to say the least. Basically, the prevailing theory is ‘when in doubt, throw it out.’ If a fruit or vegetable isn’t perfect, it’s discarded. And once items reach their “sell-by” or “best-by” date, they get tossed, regardless of whether it’s edible at that moment.
Q: What about Lovin’ Spoonfuls interests you?
A: What doesn’t interest me? I love all groups who get food to those in need. Especially those who rescue food that would otherwise be thrown away. I really love that LS emphasizes fresh, local food with its farm donations. Also, I’m fascinated by how LS managed to find so much fertile food-recovery ground in progressive Boston, where I would have guessed that food recovery would be happening all over town. Plus, any group that has a dog listed as a team member—and gives him an email address—is cool in my book.
Q: Why hasn’t food rescue caught on in a big way, especially when the concept is so simple?
A: That’s a good question. From one perspective, food rescue has caught on. Most major cities have some sort of group recovering unsold food. But from another perspective, it really hasn’t; there’s so much room for growth. Just think about how much food Lovin’ Spoonfuls is now recovering, and consider that not even a year ago this stuff was just being thrown out. What better inspiration for folks in other cities reading along to start a group in their hometown or volunteer with an existing one!
Q: Your book is already on amazon.com! Tell me about it. How long did it take to research, write… what’s the primary message?
A: The book provides a look at how America wastes nearly half of its food and suggests ways we can reverse that trend. The book took about five years to research and write. In it, I examined waste at every stage of the food chain and tried to discuss the topic in an accessible, interesting way. I didn’t want readers to feel guilty or depressed. I want people to be empowered—to reduce their waste, compost what they can’t and make good use of leftovers. Maybe even volunteer with food recovery or gleaning groups. If I had to convey just one message, it’d be that most food waste is avoidable. So let’s start the avoiding!
Q: You’re a Boston guy, what are your go-to restaurants when you’re home visiting?
A: When I’m in town, I try to get to Casey’s in Natick, Nino’s (The Linden Store) in Wellesley, or Emma’s Pizza in Cambridge. Basically, anything with an apostrophe. Along those lines, I was really bummed to see that Chef Chang’s House (of Brookline) closed. It wasn’t humanly possible to waste anything from that Chinese food institution!
Hey JB – The Linden Special is one of my all time favorite sandwiches. Great minds really do think alike www.lindenstore.com