CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story attributed Jonathan Bloom as saying his realization of food waste came from a thesis he wrote in graduate school. It led to his thesis. The story also attributed him as saying the Society of St. Andrew conducts cleaning trips. It conducts gleaning trips. The story has been amended to reflect this.
Jonathan Bloom is an alumnus of UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and author of American Wasteland.
He is giving a lecture titled “Food Waste” in honor of National Food Day in room 3408 of the Student Union at 6:30 p.m. today.
Staff writer Victor De La Cruz talked with Bloom about how to get involved with food activism.
DAILY TAR HEEL: When did you first start to get involved with food activism?
JONATHAN BLOOM: I got really interested in food activism during my graduate years at UNC. I was involved with the Society of St. Andrew, which conducts cleaning trips inside the Triangle area.
DTH: What was the inspiration for your book?
JB: I was inspired to write after realizing how much food is slipping between the cracks nationwide and also from seeing how much food had been rescued that could have been thrown out. The idea came from a thesis I was writing about during my second year of grad school.
DTH: How does this relate to UNC students?
JB: Well, all individuals play a role in the 40 percent of food being wasted nationwide, and everyone can be a part of the solution. Primarily, I would like for students to look back on the food they’re eating and think of ways to reduce their consumptions by either growing their own food or saving your leftovers.
DTH: What’s the takeaway message from the book?
JB: The message I want people to take away is that America wastes more food than any other country in the world, and we as individuals are part of the problem.
I want people to be aware of the food they are wasting and to reduce their food from being squandered. And hopefully businesses, municipalities and universities will take note and cut down on waste on their part.
DTH: What food issues are the most important today?
JB: Some issues that are important today are the amount of input that goes into making food. Eating local is a big help, and eating organic food will help ourselves and our planet. Whatever food you choose to eat will go a long way in having a healthier world.
DTH: What should students do to be food activists?
JB: My main bit of advice would be not to take so much food, especially when you’re in the all-you-can-eat situation.
Also, not buying too much fresh food is also a great way to cut back on waste. Eating and saving your leftovers can go a long way. Take your leftovers from the restaurants you eat at — you’ll waste your money (if you don’t). Also, don’t treat expiration dates too heavily but instead as a guide.
There’s a fair amount of wiggle room when it comes to expiration dates. It’s not going to hurt you in most cases, but take a look at the food before you decide to throw it out.
DTH: What’s the biggest misconception people find with food activism?
JB: I think there’s this unfortunate view that food activism is only for the elite. We can all be food activists. We all can grow our own food and cook our own dinner and be more mindful consumers.
DTH: What will your lecture focus on?
JB: I’m going to give a picture of how much food we’re wasting, why we waste 40 percent, why it matters and what we can do about it.
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