Imperfect Produce and the Ugly Fight Against Food Waste

This summer we saw the movement to ban plastic straws gain incredible traction, with corporations and cities alike contributing to its growth. Here in Malibu, the use, distribution, and sale of single-use straws, stirrers, and utensils was outright banned. Of course, while ditching plastic might not save the world, it’s nevertheless a meaningful measure in a greater effort to prevent large-scale waste.

That being said, preventing waste isn’t just a job for our businesses and governments. So what are we, as individuals, doing to create less trash? From choosing reusable water bottles to swapping our tampons for period cups, there are countless simple choices we can adopt to make a difference in the world. The most important thing we can do, however, might also be the simplest: reducing food waste.  

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that 40% of food in the US goes uneaten, making it the single largest component of our nation’s landfills.

On an annual basis, American consumers, businesses, and farms spend $218 billion (1.3% of the GDP) growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten. According to ReFEDthis equates to a massive 52 million tons of food sent to landfills, and another 10 million tons left unharvested on farms.

In simple terms, we have a big food waste problem.

But there’s hope thanks to companies like Imperfect Produce, which offers a genius subscription produce box that benefits both farmers and consumers, helping to ensure less food is thrown out. In essence, the startup sources “imperfect” produce that would otherwise have gone to waste from farms and delivers it straight to consumers each week (and for 30-50% cheaper than in-store, to boot).

Imperfect’s website states that one in five fruits and vegetables don’t meet the strict cosmetic standards of grocers who want uniform produce that will stack well and look appealing on shelves and in cases — which is a big reason so much produce is left unsold and uneaten. Fruits and vegetables that are the wrong color, misshapen, or smaller or larger than “normal” are either picked and underutilized, or not picked at all because farmers know there’s little demand for them. So, despite the lemons that look like Muppets and carrots with weird appendages featured on the brand’s Instagram, most of the “imperfections” of their fruits and vegetables are imperceptible to consumers.

“In particular, our customers that have had a garden are easily won over by what we do because they recognize that what we’re selling isn’t actually ‘imperfect’ produce — it’s normal produce,” Imperfect’s Content Manager, Reilly Brock says. “The ‘flaws’ are really just the natural diversity that nature produces. You might get a few crooked carrots or slightly misshapen apples in one of our boxes, but most of it usually looks and tastes exactly the same as what you can get from the store.”

So, while supporting Imperfect Produce benefits local farmers and helps prevent food from ending up in the trash, it’s also just plain convenient. Several waste-reducing efforts require a bit of sacrifice, but what could be easier than having perfectly good, fresh produce delivered each week? It might seem like a small lifestyle change, but our collective habits make all the difference.

“As a company, we’re doing the best we can to address food waste, but when our community is inspired to go above and beyond to start fighting this issue in their own lives, that’s when I think we can see meaningful change as a society.”

Interested in joining the ugly food movement? Imperfect Produce is active in eight cities and counting. Click here to sign up and learn more.

Amy Cummins is a writer and marketing professional based in Los Angeles. She is passionate about creating meaningful dialogue and empowering others through her writing, which has been featured on The Huffington Post, Darling Magazine, and POPSUGAR, among other blogs and websites. You can connect with her on Instagram at @amycummins_ or on her website at amycummins.com.

Photo by: Colette Krey.

Comment