In America, we throw out more than a third of our food, an insane 730 football stadiums worth every year. That’s up by about 50 percent since the ‘70s. Meanwhile, 50 million Americans are hungry. John Oliver spent last night’s Last Week Tonight looking into the causes of this ugly state of affairs.
The big ones: We reject any produce that doesn’t look perfect before it ever gets to the store, and once products are in the store, we hew to mostly-meaningless expiration dates set by companies that just want you to buy more of their stuff.
Oliver looked for any case where someone had been sued for donating food past its sell-by date that later made someone sick: apparently, there isn’t one. What’s more, there’s a federal law called the Emerson Act that protects good-faith food donors, so companies and farms aren’t actually facing legal catastrophe when they donate food.
On the other hand, getting food to people who need it costs money—it’s cheaper to throw the food away than pack it and transport it to a food bank. Large corporations always get tax breaks for donating, so they really ought to be doing it, but the part of the tax code that incentivizes small businesses to do the same has to be renewed every year. They often don’t know if they’ll get anything until after they’ve already paid to donate.
The House passed a bill this year that would’ve made those tax breaks permanent, but the Senate dismantled the entire bill and repurposed it, and the provision that made it viable to give away food disappeared.
Finally passing that law would be good, but so would not consistently buying 25 percent more food than we eat. America!