Food, a.k.a. the "afterlife" for plants and animals as John Oliver says, is a big part of American culture (or any country for that matter). But on Sunday, the Last Week Tonight host chose to focus on the food that never leaves our plates. In his latest segment, Oliver says wasting food is a costly problem that should alarm all Americans — even Mr. Donald Trump.
According to a National Resources Defense Council report, around 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is never eaten. Some more disheartening numbers? Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food every year, which turns out to be roughly 20 pounds a person every month. There's so much food wasted annually that it could fill 730 football stadiums, Oliver says.
Those are some pretty staggering numbers, and there are plenty of reasons why you should be freaked out. But if you're wondering why this is such a big deal, Oliver has an answer for you — or, at least, a specific "you" in the audience.
And if you're thinking, 'But hold on John, what if I'm an asshole who couldn't give a shit about America's hungry families or the long-term viability of life on Earth?' Well, first, let me say, Mr. Trump, thank you so much for taking the time to watch this show tonight. It's lovely to have you with us.
But really, here's why, frankly, you should give a damn.
People Need Food
Even in a country like the U.S. of A., there are people going hungry on a daily basis. In 2013, nearly 50 million Americans struggled to put food on the table.
We're Wasting Labor And Resources
According to Think Progress, California produces two-thirds of the nation's produce, but the state is "shriveling up like a pumpkin in front of a house with a lazy dad" given its historically devastating four-year drought. If we're wasting food, then we're definitely wasting water.
We're Creating Danger Zones Around Landfills
Produce is natural so it'll biodegrade over time. But if you cram too much in landfills, the decomposing food will create dangerous levels of methane, a greenhouse gas that's 20 times more potent than CO2. Oliver says that means "we're essentially throwing a trash blanket over a flatulent food man and Dutch-ovening the entire planet."
Right now, 25 percent of your grocery bill is spent on food that will never reach your mouth. So keep your wallets fatter and stop "wining and dining raccoons" by limiting what you buy and eating what you do.
Oliver goes on to debunk a number of myths about food donations. The mysterious "Sell By" dates on food packaging apparently only tell us a manufacturer's guess on when the food should be ideally eaten, not when the food actually turns toxically bad. People also tend to think you can be liable as a food donor if your donation ends up making someone sick, which isn't true given the protections provided by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
We also learn that businesses aren't really motivated to donate food because when you consider the packaging, storage, and delivery of donations, that can dramatically drive up costs. That's why, Oliver argues, the government needs to provide tax breaks to incentivize both large and small businesses to donate their food, a measure that (for no apparent reason) has struggled to pass through Congress. But even if tax breaks are put in place, it starts with us at home.
It will be one small part of what needs to be a much bigger solution, from resolving to eat uglier fruit, to taking expiration dates with a pinch of salt, to no longer worrying about getting sued by high-powered lawyers representing the hungry.
Images: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver/HBO