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Food & Hunger

The Dumb Reason Half of US Produce Is Tossed Out

Literally half of all fresh produce is thrown away in the United States, and for very dumb reasons.

Why do these fruits and vegetables never make it to grocery stores for people to buy? Because they aren’t pretty enough.

Not only are we body-shaming our girls and women — we’re body-shaming our fruits and vegetables as well.

They end up in landfills, rotting in fields, or fed to livestock “because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards,” the Guardian reports.

The newspaper interviewed and collected data from farmers, packers, truckers, researchers, campaigners, and government officials to reach this stunning conclusion.

A report by “Feeding America” had previously estimated 25 to 40 percent of all food was wasted in the US. A report by the United Nations Environment Program put the figure at 30 to 40 percent. Another estimate says that $160 billion of produce — a third of food — is chucked by consumers or retailers.

But this new figure from the Guardian’s report — that half of all produce wasted — is coming from people involved in the growing and distributing of food, not the grocery stores or regular folks who throw away old food.

When 48 percent of Americans are in “food insecure” households, meaning they don’t have regular access to enough affordable, nutritious food, this number becomes even more staggering and highlights a serious issue in this country.

Perfectly good food, which could be feeding half of this country, is going into landfills or left to rot.

What can be done?

First, and most immediately, you can pick up any “ugly” fruits and veggies you see at the grocery store. This sends a message to the stock managers that ugly foods will sell. Talk to the store’s produce manager, and tell them you’d like to see more ugly food on its shelves.

This can lead to real change — in Portugal, a food co-op buys up ugly fruit and vegetables and sells them at lower prices. Farmers contribute directly to the co-op and make extra money.

Secondly, you can also be careful about how much food you buy — plan out ahead of time what you plan to cook and have backup recipes in mind for any leftover ingredients. If you really want to be efficient with your food, the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook can help you out.

Third, you can help spread the word about the benefits of buying ugly fruits and veggies. Follow the Instagram media account @uglyfruitandveg, share the photos and the message: We shouldn’t let perfectly good food get chucked.

The Ugly Carrot Police Lineup Grows! #TheLittleOneInTheMiddle Pic by @easeandcarrots

A photo posted by The @UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign (@uglyfruitandveg) on

Longer-term, you can support legislators who recognize food waste is an issue, and start conversations with them about how to reduce it. The EU declared 2014 the “Year Against Food Waste” which involved a whole host of measures being taken to reduce food waste. France placed a ban on supermarkets throwing unused food away, and, to some controversy, started employing “doggie bags” at restaurants.

With a little effort in everyday life, a difference can be made in the food waste issue in the United States.