Senator Finds Government-Funded Food Waste Far Beyond The Compost Bin
As Eater reported this week, some politicians believe this country is awash in food waste. But this isn't the stuff in the garbage — it's the way we pour money into building restaurants, promoting American food products abroad, and encouraging the purchase of local foods.
Every December, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) puts a Wastebook together to highlight 100 examples of the government's most profligate and unnecessary spending initiatives. This year, the spending that Coburn deemed unworthy amounts to $6.9 billion. And there are a surprisingly large number of food-related projects on the list — dozens by our count.
You can take Coburn's word that the government is heavily involved in the food sector. As for whether all these projects are really all that harebrained — well, your view may be colored by your politics.
The list, whether it proves waste or not, is also an interesting window into all the different ways the government partners with restaurant chains and agricultural producers. Big subsidies to the corn and soybean industries — the kind of spending many critics of the food system frequently mention — are conspicuously absent from this list. But the list shows that the government is supporting a lot of smaller producers, too.
Here are some of the projects that appear on Coburn's 2011 list of initiatives that the senator says should not be national priorities.
As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce has reported, Coburn has also gone after scientists. One year, Coburn blasted the National Science Foundation, a major government funder of research, saying it squandered taxpayer money on projects he called questionable, including one that involved putting shrimp on a tiny treadmill.