FERN’s Friday Feed: America’s food-waste conundrum

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

A special series on solving the food-waste problem

FERN and Inverse

An estimated 33 percent—some 78 million tons—of the U.S. food supply is wasted every year, including nearly a pound of food per day in every household. This in a country with some 44 million food insecure people. It’s also a climate problem; all the waste generates methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. Can’t we just send would-be-wasted food to hungry mouths? Unfortunately, our food system is notoriously inefficient, with waste found on farms, in grocery stories, schools, and our refrigerators. This six-part series, produced in partnership with Inverse, looks at how data, technology, ingenuity, and common sense can be used to fight this waste. With all these ingredients, and a handful of worms, the solution may be within reach.

Is shrimp good for you? It’s complicated.

The New York Times

“Americans aren’t particularly enthusiastic about seafood. We eat less than half of what a Japanese or Indonesian person does. Less than a third of the average Icelander. But there is one big exception: shrimp. Our appetite for the fat little crustacean has increased for decades,” writes Erik Vance, “with the average American now eating almost six pounds per year, far more than any other ocean product. Just ask Red Lobster: The struggling seafood chain declared bankruptcy this month, citing, among other things, an all-you-can-eat shrimp scheme that cost the company $11 million when it underestimated how much people would eat. But how healthy is our favorite seafood? Is it good for our bodies? What about the world’s mangrove forests and sea turtle populations? And how do you know what to buy the next time you are at the seafood counter?”

How Guinness invented science’s most important statistical method

Scientific American

“The Guinness brewery has been known for innovative methods ever since founder Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease in Dublin for £45 a year,” writes Jack Murtagh. “For example, a mathematician-turned-brewer invented a chemical technique there after four years of tinkering that gives the brewery’s namesake stout its velvety head. The method, which involves adding nitrogen gas to kegs and to little balls inside cans of Guinness, led to today’s hugely popular ‘nitro’ brews for beer and coffee. But the most influential innovation to come out of the brewery by far has nothing to do with beer. It was the birthplace of the t-test, one of the most important statistical techniques in all of science. When scientists declare their findings ‘statistically significant,’ they very often use a t-test to make that determination. How does this work, and why did it originate in beer brewing, of all places?”

My lunches with Judith Jones, the queen of cookbooks


“This is a story told in lunches,” writes Sara Franklin. “It is April of 2013, and I am in the kitchen with Judith Jones. She is chopping hard-boiled eggs and parsley. On the counter, there is a jar of cornichons and another of capers. Nearby, a stem of cherry tomatoes, a bunch of arugula, and half a baguette. Judith tells me she is making sauce gribiche; we could have it with some roast beef leftover from earlier in the week, served cold with the day-old bread, sliced and toasted into its second life. Judith, who is 88 years old to my 26, moves with the ease of a practiced cook. She rocks her knife blade cleanly across the scarred wooden cutting board. She trusts her hands.”

No punishing. No guilt. No withholding. Just nourishment.


“Before I climb the mountain, I stop at 7-Eleven and buy a sandwich,” writes Krista Diamond. “The 7-Eleven is in Tromsø, Norway—technically the northernmost 7-Eleven on earth, but what’s really special about it is the food: tikka masala, soft-serve frozen yogurt, fresh smoothies, croissants, and most relevant to my hiking plans, paninis. The sandwiches are too big, I think, looking at them behind the glass deli counter. A big meal is a source of shame to me. A big meal is not something I like to consume in front of other people; I only eat it in secret, by myself, after I’ve had a tiny meal in public. But the panini is the size that it is and I need lunch for this hike, so I order and stuff it into my backpack. I tell myself I’ll only eat like, half of it, tops.”