According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, roughly 40% of food in developed countries goes to waste each year, mostly because retailers selling to the public overemphasize appearance. In the U.S., about one in five fruits and vegetables grown doesn’t fit most grocery stores’ strict cosmetic standards, usually causing the produce to go to waste.
WastED, supported by grocery stores and restaurants, aims to reduce waste by promoting fruits and vegetables that taste good but may not be pleasing to the eye. Whole Foods Market, for example, is a supporter and uses ugly fruit and vegetables in its freshly prepared foods and smoothie bars, and teams up with San Francisco–based Imperfect Produce, which distributes “rejected” fruits and vegetables that are blemished, scarred, or misshapen.
Imperfect Produce’s home-delivery service, in Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Bay Area, even allows customers to choose their oddball greens and fruit. Items are priced individually, and customers pay only for what they want; the delivery fee ranges from $2.99 to $4.99. On offer are crooked carrots, curvy cucumbers, and undersize apples. Consumers benefit as the fruit or vegetable is typically marked down in price and is as yummy as the pretty produce.
“When we waste food, we end up wasting everything that went into growing that food, like land, labor, fossil fuels, fertilizer, and, of course, water,” says Ben Simon, chief executive and co-founder of Imperfect Produce. “It takes over 40 gallons of water to grow one orange, so anytime we waste oranges for any reason, we are essentially dumping out all of that water. The good news is it’s quite easy for all of us to recognize and work to change.” As they say, “wholeness, not perfection,” which is a good maxim for life in general.