Last night, John Oliver took that bull we have been starving in the basement by the horns and dragged it into the light. That proverbial bull? Food Waste. Every year Americans waste enough food to fill 730 stadiums up to the brim. The segment was like a parade of sorts, one that got steadily more depressing as it went on. Oliver started off this parade of sad with a slew of the ridiculous and nauseating restaurants that are literally clogging the heart of America. IHop, Golden Corral, Red Lobster and Applebee’s were paraded across the screen to be summed up by Oliver’s impeccable chorus of “Sadness, sadness, sadness, let food replace your sadness, stuff riblets in that hole in your heart,” which was set to a re-imagined Applebees jingle.
Oliver went on to say that we are being defined by the hotdog/potato chip burgers and pigs in a blanket pizza crusts of the strip mall superchains. Meanwhile Big Food thinks of us as big dumb Pavolovian dogs that will chase just about any stick. Like, as Oliver points out, if there if there’s only one box of Captain Crunch or one package of Ring Dings or or just one avocado left on the shelf, we automatically assume there is something wrong with it, hence the overstocking of grocery stores. I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the food waste statistics Jon Oliver rattled off last night, because it’s enough to throw anyone into a fit of inconsolable, Shia LaBeouf-sized rage. Let me just say there is a shit ton of delicious peaches laying around somewhere that we will not be able to enjoy because they aren’t aesthetically on point.
Oliver points out that the expiration dates on perishables are misleading. Expiration dates are not governed by law and are determined by the manufacturer — the same manufacturer that’s trying to sell you that Asian pear — without any oversight. Usually by the time it shows up on your grocer’s shelf, it is past peak freshness and days, if not hours, away from the dumpster. It’s kind of like that Amy Schumer skit where Julia Louis celebrates her last day of fuckability with Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette. In essence, it’s fairly arbitrary and decided by bags of money with insatiable appetites for profit.
Anyway, The real kicker? Even if restaurants, grocery stores and food manufacturers wanted to donate all of this less than perfect food, they aren’t guaranteed a tax credit for their charitable donation or properly educated about the process of donating food in the first place. For whatever reason, tax credits for food donation is decided after the fact and is subject to the whims of the the federal budget, so if the funds are not there in a lean year, these food providers get little more than the satisfaction of helping the needy — and you can imagine how well it goes over with shareholders when they are told they will be getting a deposit in the karma bank instead of a dividend. Long story short, everyone in the American food chain — processed food manufacturers, restaurant chains, giant grocery stores, ill-informed consumers — helps fill those 730 stadiums to the brim year after year with delicious and often nutritious food that nobody can eat. — MEGAN MATUZAK