Imperfect fruits and vegetables to aid world hunger

In almost any society across the world, the idea of wasting food goes against moral code. So why is it food waste remains one of the largest issues facing the agriculture industry?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the agriculture produces enough food globally (roughly 2.9 trillion pounds) to feed every mouth on this planet – twice over! Yet, nearly 800 million people world-wide still suffer from hunger.

For most developing nations, this can be attributed to a lack of storage. However in other countries, often times food waste is a result of displaying/cooking too much, allowing it to rot the in the back of a fridge, or worse, throwing it out because its appearance isn’t “perfect.”

Imperfect produce, while equal in taste and nutrition to aesthetically pleasing fruits and vegetables, are often discarded because they don’t meet grocery store standards or aren’t symmetrical enough to garnish a restaurant plate. However, these wasteful actions are diminishing the ability to feed a growing population.

That’s where a new movement comes in – the movement of imperfect produce.

Intermarche´, a French grocery chain, was one of the first stores to encourage the use of cosmetically challenged produce with their campaign, “Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables.” The store began to incorporate these fruits and vegetables into products while highlighting their differences. For example they made a series of “Inglorious Vegetable Soups” and “Inglorious Fruit Juices.” Within the first month of promoting photos and the use of these interesting looking goods, 21 million people were reached by their campaign which aired on TV, radio stations, and showed in newspapers across the country. In the first week, the grocery chain had a 300 percent increase of mentions on social media, a 24 percent increase in store traffic, ultimately encouraging five of its main competitors to follow suit.

Many grocery store chains and food service companies in the U.S. have fallen suit. For example, Raley’s, a relatively small grocery chain, started a discounted ugly produce program where they sell commodities visually imperfect at a discount of 25-30 percent (learn more here).

Imperfect Produce, a delivery company in the Bay Area, now delivers fruit and veggie boxes at a discounted rate of 30-35 percent. Their actions were a large influence on Whole Foods, which, starting this month, is experimenting by selling ugly produce in some of its Northern California stores.

While food waste occurs in several other steps in the food chain, encouraging consumers to embrace otherwise perfect produce allows grocery stores and restaurants to refrain from throwing away nutritious commodities. This is one step in a bigger movement to continue feeding the population and contribute to ending world hunger.

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