Update: Jonathan Bloom’s book is now available! American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do about It)
According to Jonathan Bloom, a journalist who writes about food waste, forty percent of the food produced in the USA for consumption ends up as waste, at an annual cost of more than $100 billion. Bloom’s writings include articles on composting, food waste law, and everyday ways for households to stop wasting food. And he is writing a book on wasted food in America.
He also maintains a blog called, naturally, Wasted Food.
What, exactly, is scrounging? As Bloom explains:
The small college has a well-established tradition (dating back to the 1960s) where “scroungers” eat the leftovers of those with meal plans.
Students with board points drop off their uneaten food at the scrounge tables on their way to the dish return in cafeteria, the Commons. Scroungers gradually fill up by eating some of this and some of that.
He wrote about scrounging last year too, but this time he traveled to Portland to give it a shot for himself.
After trying it, my first reaction was, ‘Only at college.’ My second was, ‘This ain’t so bad.’ You get to taste a variety of items and, knowing you’re preventing food from going to waste, the eating feels virtuous.
When I attended Reed my financial aid covered board, so I did not see any particular reason to scrounge, but I dutifully shared my leftover germs with many scroungers over the years (and the irony that many scroungers came from families wealthy enough to not need financial aid was not lost on me). I never begrudged the lifestyle of the scrounger though, but I also never thought of scrounging as a possibly virtuous activity. But Bloom makes some good points.
Avoiding waste is an unintended (and happy) byproduct of scrounging. Most participants’ primary motivation is saving money. Yet, it’s not that all scroungers couldn’t afford to buy food. After all, a spartan bowl of rice and beans in the Commons goes for $1.05. Still, this being college, some students opt to save their means for…more recreational ends. And who can blame them for that?