About 40 percent of all edible food goes to waste (PDF) in the United States. At the same time, 50 million Americans — or 14 percent of all households — are classified as food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from.

These heartbreaking statistics shed light on America’s mounting food waste epidemic, but it turns out they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Author and journalist Jonathan Bloom has been researching the topic of food waste since 2005, when he volunteered at D.C. Central Kitchen, a homeless shelter that rescues unused food from restaurants and supermarkets, then distributes it to those in need.

After seeing the scope of wasted food — and imagining how much of it ends up in landfills in areas that don’t offer substantial food rescue services — Bloom started a blog called Wasted Food to chronicle his research.

His 2010 book American Wasteland traces America’s food waste through all steps of the supply chain, from fields and storage facilities to supermarkets and our own homes. His research led him to work the fields at a North Carolina farm and stock shelves at a grocery store for more than three months to catch an up-close look at how and why we waste.

Earth911 sat down with Bloom to talk about America’s staggering food waste problem — and what the average consumer can do about it.

Go to the next page to check out our Q&A with the author and get his top tips for reducing food waste at home.

Feature photo used in American Wasteland book cover, courtesy of Jonathan Bloom

By Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.