Straight Talk On Curved Cucumbers — Wasted Food And You

by Katy on December 12, 2008 · 8 comments



Did you know that the less-photogenic produce at your supermarket gets tossed?

And that, despite a 26-year high in unemployment, 40 percent of food produced in the United States is never eaten?

“It’s time for the food chain to get over its obsession with perfect produce,”  says writer Jonathan Bloom, describing the weeding-out of curved cucumbers and straight bananas as “ludicrous.”  

“What happens to the bread at the end of the day?” asked Bloom in a recent phone conversation. “It’s a topic that falls between the cracks. It doesn’t fall neatly into any one category.” On his website,, he explores the subject in depth.

As we move deeper into the current recession, these issues will continue to make headlines.

Bloom’s writings on food waste have led to multiple interviews on this now-hot topic, including  an appearance on The Today Show. A book is in the works.

While in journalism school, he volunteered for the Washington D.C. food recovery group, ,D.C. Central Kitchen, a life-changing experience he found “shocking and jarring.”

“I knew this was a topic I would stick with for a while.”

One promising trend: Many college cafeterias are ditching their trays. A recent study by Aramark show that food waste is reduced by 1.2 to 1.8 ounces per person per meal when the trays are gone —  a 25 to 30 percent reduction in food waste. 

With no trays to wash, schools gain other savings in both money and energy.

“It makes so much sense,” says Bloom.

And wouldn’t the tray-less cafeteria combat the time-honored “freshman 15?” I asked, referring to those extra unwanted pounds that sneak their way onto unsuspecting college freshmen.

“There’s minimal downside.”

Guess what else?

Rotten food produces methane gas, a major contributor to global warming. Bloom works with a renewable energy company in North Carolina, exploring ways to convert the methane gas from food waste into electricity.

So? Are you converted now?

The food writer suggests five strategies to combat home food waste.

  1. Jot down what you’re throwing out. Awareness of what you waste will force you to cut down.
  2. Plan your meals.
  3. Make detailed shopping lists. Watch those impulse buys!
  4. Serve reasonable portions. You can always have seconds. 
  5. Save those leftovers. Then — most importantly — actually eat them!


Jonathan Bloom’s writings can be found at

What are you doing to combat food waste in the home? Please share your strategies in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Eat it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

GLM December 12, 2008 at 11:19 am

OK, sorry – I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare throwing out a bad cucumber to global warming.

That being said, it’s more economical to eat what you buy, and buying food that you have no plans for eating just goes against common sense. It’s just the old farmer mentality that a lot of people seem to have blocked out of their minds.


Dirk December 12, 2008 at 11:47 am

Actually, food waste CAN be considered a major contributer to global warming. Depending on your municipality here in the Western U.S., wasted food and food soiled paper typically make up from 25 to 30% of what goes to the landfill. As it degrades, it produces methane gas, which is arguably a more dangerous contributer to global warming than is CO2. Not only that, but that wasted cucumber travels along a pretty big transportation chain before it finally comes to its final resting spot in the landfill. One cucumber isn’t a big deal, per se, but when every consumer and every store is throwing out cucumbers, the carbon footprint begins to show itself.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl December 12, 2008 at 11:56 am

GLM, I think the idea is that the methane gas rotting food produces in a landfill is contributing to global warming.

I post about food waste quite a bit on my blog…I’ve been working pretty hard on reducing the amount I waste. I posted a list of how-tos here:
and some example of what I do here:


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl December 12, 2008 at 11:57 am

Hmmm…that would be examples, actually! lol


Magdalena Julie Bragdon Perks December 12, 2008 at 2:20 pm

The big hurdle here is getting people to eat the leftovers in the fridge! I try to get the extras into the freezer quickly, but then they aren’t so appealing…(is that a pun?)

I worked in DC at Martha’s Table, where we received literally tons of food that would go to the landfill because it hadn’t sold. We made soup and sandwiches, coffee and punch, and handed out doughnuts and cookies when we had them. The prepared food was loaded into vans and driven to sites around the city so that those in need didn’t have to journey far to get a meal. At the end of the month, when the money and food stamps were gone, whole families would show up. We fed everyone – no one had to qualify. Get in line and you got food. I usually ate from the van myself. (I was a poor student, rather an impoverished student.) It was great fun, as well as a great project. When we had something exotic come in that people wouldn’t touch, I’d take it home – like Baba Ghanoush, Hummus and Guacamole. My equally impoverished vegetarian roommates considered it a feast.


Pat December 12, 2008 at 4:07 pm

My local grocery saves their veggie ‘trimmings’ for me to give to my chickens. This is bits that are trimmed off to make the veggie more attractive for the consumer. I hate to admit this but – I have taken to going thru these boxes of trimmings. Sometimes I find some perfectly good stuff and I use it in my own kitchen. I used to feel guilty but, heck, they were just going to throw it out anyway! We have even gotten to try some pretty exotic fruit this way. And sometimes I end up buying them again at full-price, so I figure we are all winners.


christajean December 12, 2008 at 5:50 pm

If I don’t plan out my week in meals, I waste. And it’s usually the veggies and greens (which we need so badly) that go first.

I just learned today of a non-profit organization in my area called “Gleaners”, they go around to all the markets in the area and “glean” what would normally be thrown out. They glean some great items too! Like organic produce from New Seasons, sprouted breads from Trader Joes, brown eggs, cheeses, and much more. To be a beneficiary of this program, one only has to pay $5 a month. For a family who is unemployed and saving their pennies, that sounds like a great service to me!


Susan Lee December 16, 2008 at 6:28 am

I no longer shop at Wal-Mart, but when I used their deli, I saw the employee re-wrap and mark a perfectly good end of a ham and I asked her if she could “slip” it into my order for me to make soup. Her answer was sad. They have to mark the ends, weigh them and then they are accounted for as unsellable, then thrown away. She said she could be fired for giving it to me. Hmm…. No soup kitchens, homeless shelters, nothing. The dumpster. Their numbers are more important than real people. I’m done with Wal-Mart – I have grown to loathe most of what they stand for. At Publix, our local food store, they’ll throw that end lump into your bag and not even charge you a dime for it. But at the same time, if a tomato looks funny, they have to bring it in the back and not give it to you with a reduced price.

I am trying to buy local for many reasons but one of which is because the produce usually lasts longer and hopefully hasn’t been on a truck for a month. That reduces some of the waste in my house. Turning leftovers into something else like leftover pork roast into bbq pork sandwiches or a whole cooked chicken carcass into soup tomorrow, etc. Then there’s composting!! Good, rich compost is always needed on my property!


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