How often do you go into the grocery store and marvel over the gleaming array of perfectly sized and shaped fruits and vegetables. What happens to all the produce that does not look as nice? In America, 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables grown don’t fit grocery stores’ strict cosmetic standards — the crooked carrot, the curvy cucumber, the undersized apple — usually causing them to go to waste.
About 25% of produce is wasted in the U.S. before it even reaches the grocery store! This is mostly due to strict cosmetic standards from large grocers that dictate exactly how their fruit and veggies should look. This equals about 20 billion pounds of good, healthy produce left uneaten because it doesn’t look pretty! If produce fails to make the grade for size, shape, or color it’s deemed “ugly” and unsellable.
There is a movement happening in this country that is getting us to rethink the way food should look. We are resisting the idea that to be nutritious food has to look beautiful. Not only that but the 20 billion pounds of nutritious but ugly produce can be used to feed the almost 50 million people are food insecure and almost 90% of us (over 270 million) are not eating enough fruits and veggies in the U.S.
There are ways we can make ugly produce a desirable product instead of an unwanted outcast. Stop Food Waste’s The Ugly Fruit and Vegetable Campaign has pushed large food chains like Whole Foods and Walmart to sell produce that does not fit industry standards. Support the stores that are selling the ugly produce and send emails to the stores that are still rejecting produce.
Look for local farmers and CSA that sell ugly produce. For instance Imperfect Produce, a subscription delivery service, sources from farms with produce that would be thrown out for cosmetic reasons. If we support programs like this we can stop billions of pounds of fruits and vegetables go to waste on farms across the U.S. per year.
Faith groups have taken up this food waste issue. In August Bethel Lutheran Church in California celebrated Ugly Food Month. They dedicated time during service to speak about why we should celebrate ugly food and ended their month with a potluck of ugly food dishes.
Jordan Figueiredo at the @UglyFruitAndVeg campaign they list more ways we can help reduce food waste by educating and changing policy around ugly food
- Everyone – Buy It and Talk About It
Purchase imperfect (sometimes “ugly”) fruit and veg: at the farmers market, though a home delivery service like those above, at supermarkets or wherever you can find them. Talk about the issue and share your “uglies” pics with your friends and the world at my various @UglyFruitAndVeg social media accounts.
- Grocers – Sell It and Educate
a. Put more pressure on our nation’s grocers to accept responsibility in this matter. You can do this here.
- Schools – Buy It and Educate
a. We need our students, our youth, to eat more fruits and vegetables, right? What better way than to educate them to love ugly and save money while their school buys cheaper, but imperfect, fruit and veg! In many ways, produce shaming is parallel to body shaming and bullying – we should be teaching our students that produce can be imperfect and still beautiful.
- Governments – Support Farm to Food Bank
You can also ask your state government if they support farm to food bank programs (or if they can start such a program or support them further).