John Oliver: Food from Farm to Not-the-Table

If there's one thing John Oliver really nails, it's a good analogy. Last night, he aptly aimed those analogies at the inordinate amount of food that goes to waste in the US. "This is not a story about the food we eat. This is a story about the food we don't eat, because there's a surprising amount of it," he began. "Food waste is like the band Rascal Flats. It can fill a surprising number of stadiums, even though many people consider it complete garbage."

He pointed out that that American's waste 50% more food than in the 1970s, and that "at this rate, in 40 years when you order pizza from Domino's they'll just deliver it to the nearest dumpster--as they should, but that's not the point here."

Some of the resource concerns around wasted food were highlighed, such as water. "At a time when the landscape of California is shriveling up like a pumpkin in front of a house with a lazy dad, it seems especially unwise that farmers are pumping water into food that ends up being used as a garnish for landfills." And greenhouse gases, "When we dump food into a landfill, we're essentially throwing a trash blanket over a flatulent food man and Dutch-ovening the entire planet."

He covered the confusion that exists over expiration dates on food, noting that we're "weirdly reverent towards these dates, even when they make no sense....The only labels on food more meaningless than those are the ones on Smirnoff bottles that say Triple Distilled Vodka." He also proposed there's a conflict of interest in those dates. "If I were a food manufacturer, I would make those dates as tight as possible to convince people to buy a new one of my products because, unlike Apple, I can't just create a new operating system that suddenly means your old cereal is incompatible with your mouth."

He touched on the abundant displays of produce at supermarkets, noting that "We naturally assume the last option is a bad option, which in many contexts is the absolutely the case. For example, you don't want the last magazine in the doctor's office because it's always Golf Digest, always, and no one has ever read Golf Digest...But when it comes to produce, the last option is probably fine."

Finally, he brought up food donations and the unfair situation in which smaller business are not guaranteed tax breaks in the same way that larger corporations are. Explaining that language in a congressional bill to make the tax deduction for small businesses permanent was swapped out for language on a completely different topic, he likened it to "going to a restaurant, ordering a veggie burger, and having the waiter say 'Here ya go, we made it out of meatloaf and we call it a waffle.' And then, you can't even say well I don't want it, give it to someone who needs it, because they can't, because they don't know whether they'll get a f&*in tax credit for it!"

All in all, as we've come to expect out of John Oliver, he does a smashing, hilarious job of pointing out the ridiculousness of all the food going to waste. I highly recommend you take a look and see (and laugh) for yourself!