Sustainable America Blog

Watch John Oliver Take Aim at Food Waste in America

John Oliver on Food Waste

John Oliver took on the issue of food waste last night on “Last Week Tonight,” and we are so thrilled he did. The comedian spent close to 20 minutes explaining the problem and lambasting the wasteful ways of all players in our food system. Here’s the video:

Oliver discusses waste at the farm level in the face of a drought: “At the time when the landscape of California is shriveling up like a pumpkin in front of a house with a lazy dad, it seems especially unwise that farmers are pumping water into food that ends up being used as a garnish for landfills.”

He also explained how most Americans throw away food before it’s gone bad because of confusion over food date labels: “Most of the time, sell-by dates are one of those things that look official but you can probably ignore, like a child in a cop uniform.”

He ended the segment by taking Congress to task for dropping legislation that would incentivize more supermarkets and businesses to donate extra food.

To learn more about food waste, visit ivaluefood.com, where you can take a quiz to figure out how much you waste and get tips for reducing food waste at home.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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