This is something that falls both under the category Silly and Important. I’m not even sure it’s silly enough to fall under the category of a silly post of the week, but with a name like ‘Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables,’ I’ll say it qualifies.
I recently saw a video about a French supermarket, Intermarche, who wanted to do something to combat food waste.
Did you know that grocery stores throw out up to 40% of fruits and vegetables simply because they are ugly? I had no idea, but I, too, look over the fruits and vegetables and squeeze and examine as if I actually know what I am doing. I search through the tomatoes and the peaches to find the prettiest one, as if my fruit bowl at home needs to rival a French Provencal painting. Little did I know that my finicky fruit and vegetable habits are part of such tremendous waste.
So, thank goodness for Intermarche for setting me straight. They set out to prove that ugly fruits and vegetables taste just as yummy as their more beautiful counterparts. They dedicated a whole aisle to the deformed produce and sold them at a 30% discount. They also started a line of prepared foods made out of the two-legged carrots or bulgey eggplant. This way people can take home a bowl of ugly tomato soup and taste for themselves how delicious it is before buying the lumpy things themselves.
An estimated 90,000 tons of produce in the U.K. goes to landfill sites annually, all because customers associate ‘ugly’ with ‘defective.’ I don’t know what 40% of the US grocery store produce equals in tons, but I’d guess it’s a lot more than that. The same is true for all westernized countries. The amount of fruits and vegetables that are thrown out world-wide simply because they aren’t visually acceptable to consumers is astounding.
It is even more egregious when you factor in the fact that there are areas in the U.S. that are called “food desserts” because there is so little access to good healthy food. How many people are there in this country (or any country) who live in low-income neighborhoods that don’t have access to fresh produce? When you also factor into that the fact that a head of broccoli in America costs more than a full meal at McDonald’s, that blows my mind.
So, my not-so-silly ending to my kinda-silly post for the week is this:
The ugly fruit movement should join forces with the Food Justice movement and design programs to take the less than perfect looking – but still just as tasty and nutritious – produce to lower-income neighborhoods and sell them for a discounted price. And we should all stop being so prissy about our food.