Food (Waste) Freedom

Food (Waste) Freedom

Baylen Linnekin
Show Date
June 13, 2022
Food FreedomCalifornia
Reason Magazine

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there are few things more terrifying than a government bureaucrat who is trying to help us. In California, we are confronted with the stuff of nightmares on an almost daily basis. Baylen Linnekin of Reason Magazine reports on the latest do-gooder legislation that makes the problem it is trying to solve much worse:

The law, S.B. 1383 … "requires supermarkets and other big food providers to divert as much as a quarter of edible food now destined for dumps to food banks to feed the needy," the Los Angeles Times reported in December.

Sounds great, right? Not so fast…

Yet multiple reports now highlight the fact that complying with the law is "proving easier said than done," ABC7 in Los Angeles reports. That's because grocers, restaurants, food banks, local governments, and others haven't "figure[d] out who is responsible for reclaiming [food] leftovers [under the law], and how to pay the costs of doing so." Those costs have only skyrocketed due to record gas prices. Given these challenges, it's "been hard for local food banks and small towns to implement [the law] due to climbing fuel costs and uncertainty over who pays for food recovery," Reuters notes.

The problem of food waste is a perfect encapsulation of the broader issue of food freedom, and indeed of all “solutions” to perceived market failures. The government gets involved to right a wrong, without considering the myriad ways that the invisible hand is being thwarted in the process.

Linnekin returned to the show to revisit his now classic book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable (Island Press, 2016), and how California’s law fits the broader pattern we see over and over again.