Remembering Food Waste and Recovery

By: Leda Cooks  

Strasser (1999), observes that the history of trashmaking in the “developed” world is one of dislocation and forgetting, especially as an era of “disposable” products and relations between and among people and products has become common. The social, economic and cultural history of waste brings about interesting questions of memory and remembering. Set against increasing calls among industrialized nations for awareness and reduction of the amount of food unnecessarily wasted, this chapter compares individual and collective memories about food waste as intertextual discourses and performances that also re-member economies, cultures and identities. Food waste memories involve acknowledgement of waste in a society spacially (politically, economically, socially) designed to hide it. How do we both acknowledge our histories with food and waste, and imagine a better future? The essay juxtaposes food waste reduction and recovery policy and agency websites in the US (e.g., US Environmental Protection Agency, Feeding America) with narratives from 15 interviews about waste in the US from diverse locations at the consumer/household end of the food chain. Three questions are at the heart of this study: How is food citizenship imagined in the interstices between national policies and movement discourses about food waste and individual and collective memories of wasting food? How might or does the act of storytelling as well as the relational study of food waste memories open other-than neoliberal imaginings? What can analysis of individual and national narratives of food loss and recovery help us understand about food valuation and food citizenship?

Ethics Taboos Self-sufficiency
Food, Politics, and Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Leda Cooks

-, -, University of Massachusetts, United States
MA, United States

I am a teacher, researcher and community organizer on issues of food justice, culture and identity. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on food, justice, culture and identity. I have written articles and chapters on food, identity and resistance and the intersections between food waste and food taste. I am currently writing a book on food and family across the lifespan and book chapters on the constriction of food waste in popular culture.