Last night John Oliver on Last Week Tonight discussed the ridiculous reasons we in America waste nearly 1/3 of our food. We we throw enough food in this country to fill 730 football stadiums worth every year. That’s insane.
Now I spent over a decade in the restaurant business and I can tell you this is a topic that was discussed repeatedly. At the end of the day there was always trash cans full of perfectly edible food that could have, and to be fair most people wanted to, donate to homeless shelters or food banks. But we were told repeatedly that it couldn’t be done because we (the company, the employees, etc.) would be liable if someone got sick. I believed this. It seemed perfectly true in the most litigious society in the world.
However, it turns out this is not true at all. As Oliver discusses on the show 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. And, not only that, there has never been an example of someone suing over being sick from donated food. Turns out people who need food donated just grateful for the food. And I feel like a cynical bastard for just believing the lawsuit angle my whole adult life and not doing anything about it.
There is much more to the story from arbitrary expiration dates, throwing food away because it doesn’t look esthetically pleasing and just simply the expense of being charitable. And, as Oliver points out, we can easily change this but we are held back by our inability to just do the right thing.
It is a comedy piece on a comedy show but Last Week Tonight continues to hit on disturbing issues and deal with them in a thoughtful and insightful way. I find it truly amazing that the best journalism in this country continuously comes from comedians – John Oliver, Jon Stewart, and others – and that our news programs descend into inane noise. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.