Books: Waste: Uncovering The Global Food Scandal

Tristram Stuart examines our wasted food epidemic.

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First, books and movies like Fast Food Nation and Food, Inc. turned dinner into a stomach-churning moral dilemma. Now, with his heroically researched Waste, British author and historian Tristram Stuart forces us to consider what we don’t eat. Americans throw away as much as half their food—billions of edible tons gone to ruin on farms, at slaughterhouses, in dumpsters, and in our own kitchen trash cans.

Stuart nimbly examines “the grotesque scale and gratuitous causes” of food waste, which range from supermarkets’ routine overordering from suppliers to the tyranny of “sell by” labels (intended to help stores rotate their stock, not protect consumers’ health). He then offers commonsensical solutions: Supermarkets might reward managers based on their efficiency in ordering, and governments should impose waste reduction targets on agribusiness and lift bans on feeding old human food to animals. Like the parents who make their kids clean their plates because people are starving in Africa, Stuart makes the connection between your leftovers and others’ hunger: If we quit wasting food, we could grow less of it and stabilize supplies and prices where it’s needed most. We’d also slash greenhouse gas emissions from producing and landfilling uneaten food.

Dedicated to the author’s sow, Gudrun, Waste is most delightful when Stuart writes about his adventures in dumpster diving, canning, and teaching others to “prepare squirrels for consumption.” He’ll eat absolutely anything, including broiled sheep lungs and eventually Gudrun—ears, spleen, and all. People must learn, he says with disarming simplicity, “to buy what they eat and to eat what they buy.”

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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