You know that food waste is bad for the planet and for your wallet, but one of the major causes of waste in our food system is something you might not expect.
Yes, we waste a lot of food by tossing leftovers and letting food spoil in the fridge, but before most of our food reaches store shelves, it has to look the part. Wait….what?
It’s true! Grocery stores won’t sell ugly produce, because consumers don’t tend to buy ugly produce. That means an apple that’s a little misshapen or an onion that has a spot on it ends up in the compost heap or the landfill, rather than at the store, and all of that wasted food drives up food prices by decreasing supply.
We already don’t produce enough fruits and vegetables to meet suggested daily serving amounts for everyone, and at the same time we’re further reducing access to produce by tossing fruits and veggies just because they’re not picture perfect.
What’s mind-blowing about this problem is that ugly produce is no less healthy than the perfect-looking fruits and veggies that make it to the grocery store. One of my favorite ugly veggies is what my friend Rob calls a “pants carrot.” You can see a beautiful pants carrot – which you’d never find at a conventional grocery store – pictured at the top of this page.
So, what can we, as consumers, do about this huge waste of food? We only have so much power, but there are ways that we can keep ugly produce out of the landfill and put it onto our plates. Check out how on the next page!
Image Credit: Photo by Becky Striepe
Tristram Stuart knows a thing or two about ugly food and solving our food waste problem. Check out his experiences with the food system in his inspiring TED Talk:
What You Can Do
Supporting local farmers is a great way to stop the food waste problem. When you shop at the farmers market or subscribe to a CSA, you get access to that ugly produce, which is no less healthy than the pretty fruits and veggies you’re used to seeing on store shelves.
You can also help out at your local food bank and encourage them to team up with local farms to take their ugly produce and get it to people who need it.
Not everyone is going to like this last suggestion, but cutting back on the meat and dairy in your diet is an excellent way to reduce food waste. It takes 30 pounds of corn to produce a single pound of meat. That’s terribly inefficient. If we got those grains directly to people, think of how many hungry mouths we could feed!
Can you think of other ways to reduce food waste between the farm and store shelves? Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments!