Most of us don't reach for that gnarled carrot or slightly bruised apple when selecting our produce at the local supermarket, but that's exactly why Americans waste up to 40% of edible food every year. This staggering number is what sparked the "ugly food" movement, and has inspired a number of companies to sell misshapen fruit and vegetables to consumers, rather than throwing it in the trash.
A change.org petition last year called for Whole Foods to become part of the ugly food movement, and this past April they announced a partnership with Emeryville-based Imperfect Produce to sell misshapen fruits and veg in select Northern California stores. There have been pilot programs with several other grocery chains as well including Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh and even Wal-Mart sells bags of ugly apples at some of their Florida stores, branding them with an "I'm Perfect" label.
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Selling imperfect produce is still relatively rare right now, which can be partially attributed to a supply issue rather than a lack of willing participants. Raley's, a Sacramento based grocery chain, started an ugly food pilot program called "Real Good," but discontinued it after 90 days saying they had "some challenges sourcing the product." A grower might have large amounts of ugly produce one year due to inclement weather, but much less the next year if the weather has been more ideal. Harvests constantly vary and retailers are more likely to buy ugly produce in bulk rather than just a few pounds at a time.
This is why organizations like Imperfect Produce and Salvage Supperclub in San Francisco are playing an important role in the prevention of food waste. Even if a grower has had a particularly good year, with lots of glamorous fruit and vegetables to sell to retailers, there will always be some uglies leftover. These smaller companies still buy the ugly food, even in small batches. Salvage Supperclub takes it a step further by not only buying the ugly produce, but turning it into a gourmet dining experience as well.
USDA: Food Waste FAQs
National Geographic: How 'Ugly' Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger
Mic: This Food Trend Isn't Pretty - And That's the Point