The History of Food Waste in America

Timeline created by libbykim
  • New Amsterdam outlaws throwing waste into the streets

    New Amsterdam outlaws throwing waste into the streets
    Early settlers very consciously preserved resources by avoiding waste as much as possible. Even the fat from animals was turned in soap by turning it into lard and mixing it with lye so that all parts of the animal were used. Excess food was often mixed into the soil for fertilization.
  • Invention of Canning

    Invention of Canning
    Industrialized cities begin combating food waste by introducing canning. This process was first invented by a Frenchman named Nicolas Appert who developed this idea for the French Army.
  • Peter Duran patents the tin can

    Peter Duran patents the tin can
    This invention allows for the preservation and storing of food, allowing it to last longer before spoiling. Duran's patent makes the tin can more widespread.
  • Age of Industry

    Age of Industry
    Families begin wasting more food as it continues to cost less and be more easily available due to industrialization. Disease begins to spread in large cities due to the lack of clean and organized waste removal; public health officials begin realizing the importance of proper food waste disposal and the threat of a serious health problem posed by disposing food in the streets. The late 1800s begin seeing the first garbage delivery wagons.
  • American Can Company Established

    American Can Company Established
    The American Can Company develops and promotes their cans made of tin and begins the commercial canning of peas. The rising trend of canning dramatically decreased food waste as food could now be kept fresh for much longer. Fruits and vegetables could now be stored in cans and kept fresh for up to 1-2 years if unopened-- a huge change from the 1-2 weeks the produce lasted when un-canned.
  • Salt Lake City repurposes food waste

    Salt Lake City repurposes food waste
    Due to the high cost of incarceration, citizens of Salt Lake City reuse their food by transporting waste to the countryside for farmers to use as feed for their animals.
  • World War I

    World War I
    During World War I, the United States became the Allies' biggest resource for food and resources to support the troops. The slogan, "Food will win the War," became a common catchphrase. The US Food Administration was born and takes control of food production management and distribution. Americans cut back on certain foods such as meat in order to conserve resources for troops.
  • The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl

    The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl
    American families suffer under the Great Depression and scarce resources due to the Dust Bowl. Areas unaffected by the Dust Bowl also suffered during this time due to changes in supply and demand. Most families soon could not afford fresh foods while the U.S. lacked sufficient means by which to transport produce across the nation. This not only left thousands hungry and without access to food but also left millions of pounds of fresh produce to rot because it could not be sold.
  • Rise of Refrigerators

    Rise of Refrigerators
    During this difficult time of scarcity, families turned to resourceful food repurposing techniques in order to preserve the greatest amount of food possible. Between 1930 and 1940, the percentage of families that owned a refrigerator jumped from only 8% to nearly 50%.
  • World War II

    World War II
    Americans are encouraged to ration certain products in order to support the war effort, particularly products with animal fats which could be used to manufacture explosives. However, unlike in WWI, Americans are less motivated to make these sacrifices after recently coming out of the Great Depression. SPAM becomes a common, cheap meal option and is sent to many troops. The main ingredient in SPAM was pork shoulder, which turned from a by-product of pork processing to a useful ingredient.
  • Rise of Consumerism

    Rise of Consumerism
    Following the war, incredible abundance and low prices leads to greater food waste. Additionally, new inventions such as the garbage-disposal initiate an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality which leads to further waste and less consideration of the consequences of consumption.
  • The Modern Era

    The Modern Era
    The 1960s trend continues in the modern era as families become more focused on careers and entertainment than sustainability. Particularly for low-income families, fresh produce can be hard to come by leading to less consumption of healthy foods. Despite this, some efforts are being made to educate the public on food waste and encourage sustainable habits such as on the TV show "The Big Waste" in which famous chefs prepare multi-course meals using only food being thrown out by local businesses.
  • What next?

    What next?
    The future of food waste is now: what can YOU do to preserve resources and decrease food waste across America? Next time you think, "I don't like that," about a food, think of a new way to enjoy it and consider what would happen if everyone simply threw it away. Little by little, food waste in American can decrease-- but only as each person does their part. So, eat those vegetables and think about the ways you are helping sustain not only a healthy body but also a healthy planet!