Photo Essay: Wasted Food


Thanks to Jonathan Bloom for this series of photos. Jonathan is writing a book on wasted food in America. He became interested in the topic after a day volunteering at D.C. Central Kitchen. Seeing the truckloads of rescued food that would otherwise have gone to landfills made him wonder how much edible food does slip through the cracks.

As a journalist, Bloom set out to learn why and how Americans waste more than 40% of the food produced for consumption. He started a blog dedicated to the topic and worked at a grocery store, farm and catering company to better understand the problem.

The photos below depict the incredible amount of food wasted in America, and also some hopeful examples of food recovery.


Cartons of strawberries, many of which have gone bad.


Discarded food at the Crazy Horse Sanitary Landfill in Salinas, California.


More discarded food at the Crazy Horse Sanitary Landfill in Salinas, California.


A dumpster behind a supermarket (with past-date, but still fresh lettuce) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


Unharvested iceberg lettuce that will be tilled under in Salinas, California.


Damaged boxes of crackers that will be salvaged by an organization called Senior Gleaners (Sacramento, CA) provided the crackers have not been exposed).


Eddie Heard, 81, a senior gleaner recovering grapes from a woman’s backyard arbor that would otherwise go to waste.

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9 Responses to “Photo Essay: Wasted Food”

  1. RivkaK Says:

    I watched Oprah the other day about Freegans. My question that was never answered…if I go dumpster dive in bac of my local supermarket, can I be charged with a crime?

  2. Jonathan Bloom Says:

    I’m no lawyer, but here’s the deal: A store’s dumpster is its private property, so rifling through it is considered trespassing, unfortunately. You *could* be charged with a crime, but probably wouldn’t. More likely they’d just tell you to get out of their dumpster.

    If a restaurant, bakery, etc. puts their bags of trash out on the street (for collection), it’s fair game. That’s why you hear of more urban freegans.

  3. Soodoenim Says:

    I am a freegan, and have been for years. As it turns out, I was once arrested for dumpster diving in Arcata, California. Here’s the deal.

    The last couple of weeks of a college’s school year are known to us as “hippie christmas,” though some have called it “hippie hanukkah,” and some people have called any such names foolish. The point is, that that’s prime-time for dumpster diving wherever you are, and the campus PD are all over the place. The situation in which I got arrested is more of an amusing tale than a cautionary one really. My squatter friend and I came out of the university’s nature preserve to squat on campus for a couple of weeks. We pulled some comforters and blankets out of the dumpsters and made a nice little nest in a nook behind one of the dining halls. Very secure, and hard to find.

    We raided the campus for the better part of a week and a half before, one day, when we were playing with some dumpstered magic: the gathering cards at a picnic table, a couple of campus PD officers came up to us and took our pictures and told us we were banned from campus for two weeks.

    We continued to show up for the rest of the week, until on the last day, when the dumpsters were literally spilling out onto the sidewalks, we got the sense that the police were too present to accomplish our goals in safety and in secret, so we split up and decided to ditch the campus.

    I heard later that he got stopped by the cops, but he had already left campus, so they had nothing on him. For myself, I was caught right on the edge of the campus by a bike cop, arrested and taken to the county jail just to be processed. I wasn’t put in a cell or anything, and when I returned to the campus later that day, campus PD gave me everything that I had in my possession back (including all of my liberated booty). Possession really is nine-tenths of the law, I suppose.

    So really, I knew the risks involved once the cops banned us from campus, and the arrest was my fault and mine alone. I should have been more wary being on campus after getting banned. As it turns out, I never paid the ticket, and have had my ID ran in Arcata several times since without any warrants or anything like that. So, a victimless crime indeed deserves no freegan be victimized.

  4. Soodoenim Says:

    Just to temper my cautionary notes: we did tag team every dumpster on an entire state university campus for ten straight days without incident. So don’t take this as discouragement. I have nothing but good things and encouraging words to pass along about dumpster diving.

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