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Food & Hunger

Ugly Fruits and Vegetable Might Be the Answer to Zero Food Waste

Your potato might have a bump, or your apples might have a small soft spot. Sure, they would lose a beauty pageant, but these ugly fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as the prettier ones. Here’s the sad reality: these fruits and veggies will likely be thrown out, by the farmer who harvested them, or the grocer stocking his store. Why? Simply because they look funny.

Ugly fruits and vegetables are nothing new. They account for nearly half of US food waste, but have recently been making headlines for a more positive reason.

Read More: The Dumb Reason Half of US Produce Is Tossed Out

Fortunately, ugly fruits and vegetables are making a comeback and there are several campaigns and organizations working to decrease the amount of food waste that is a result of misshapen produce.

The notion that real food has curves and we should stop shaming misshapen fruits is as catchy and effective as campaigns on women’s beauty. Cosmetically challenged fruits need some love, too!

Two companies — Imperfect and Columbia Marketing International, Inc. (CMI)  — are paving the way for misshapen produce by placing the produce front and center on the shelves of large grocery chains in the US.

Imperfect sources all of its fruits and vegetables from farmers in California and deliver misshapen produce in boxes that otherwise would have been tossed out by farms or supermarkets. The produce may look a little wonky but it tastes just as good on the inside.

Read More: How One Potato Is Helping Reduce Food Waste

Whole Foods announced a partnership with Imperfect earlier this year to test the sale of this produce in stores around California. This deal was announced after this petiton on Change.org calling for food retailers to take more responsibility for food waste got more than 100K signatures.

"The ugly produce trend has taken off across the world, and our fingers are crossed that US consumers will be just as excited," said Ben Simon, spokesman for Imperfect.

Whole Foods already has an in-store composting program and currently buys less cosmetically appealing produce for their prepared foods, juice, and smoothie bars. This latest partnership with Imperfect is a new way for the chain to explore a different approach to move toward zero food waste.

Another perk of buying imperfect produce is discounted prices.  

At Giant Eagle, a 420-store chain headquartered in Pennsylvania, shoppers will now save nearly 50 percent by purchasing unbeauteous fruits and veggies marked with the Produce with Personality label. A 4-pound bag of conventional oranges sells for about $4.99, while the blemished bag sells for $2.99.

A photo posted by kromkommer (@krommunity) on

CMI, located in Washington State, is one of the largest growers, packers, and shippers of apples, pears, and cherries in the US. Their new campaign, I’m Perfect, works to end the stigma surrounding ugly apples and pears by delivering boxes of them to homes, and, now, to Walmart stores, where they are sold.

Read More: In a Win for Food Waste, Walmart Is Selling 'Ugly" Fruit

Whether you call these fruits and vegetables misshapen, blemished, wonky, or just plain ugly, it’s the taste that matters, not the appearance. By looking past these imperfections, we can significantly reduce the amount of food waste around the world.