Ugly Produce

We Can End Hunger With Six Billion Pounds Of Edible Produce, But We Don’t Because It’s ‘Ugly Food’

For the past decade or so, many organizations and companies that are in favor of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, pushed that such would be at the forefront of ending hunger on a global scale. One of their biggest reasons they use is that traditional conventional farming cannot yield what GMO farm factories produce.

Today, that excuse is no longer valid thanks to the new methods of organic farming the green community has created. Forward Thinking created a solar-powered floating farm that uses aquaponics to grow 20 tons of vegetables. Organic farmers living in the city figured a way to do vertical farming so that organic food can be grown in urban areas. Finally, Japan has created the world’s largest indoor farm, one that produces over 100 times more food than conventional farms.

With such advancements in organic farming, organic food should be at the forefront of ending world hunger. However, there is one issue that is preventing that and it is the disposal of six billion pounds of food. The reason is because said food is “ugly.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council reported earlier this year that six billion pounds of fruits and vegetables are disposed of every year, according to Huffington Post. Compared to the total amount of produce grown annually, that means more than 20 percent is rejected. This is surely debilitating given that back in 2013, 17.5 million households were considered food insecure, 6.8 million of them with very low food security. What is even more debilitating is the reason why such a large amount of produce is disposed in the first place. Numerous grocery stores are rejecting the produce because they are considered “ugly food.” Despite how the produce may look on the outside, they are still sustainable and fit for human consumption.

In all frankness, ugly fruits and vegetables have already been proven to be of good for consumption. A prime example are ugly tomatoes. Though not picked by commercial food sellers (restaurants and the like) since tomatoes are often used as garnishes, condiments, or visual ingredients (salads, burgers, etc.), they are popular as a prep ingredient, especially for home-cooked meals.

With ugly tomatoes being a-okay for consumption, what about other ugly produce? Thankfully, such food may no longer being wasted as numerous new companies and start-ups promote the selling of ugly produce. CNN reported that Dana Cowin, an editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Magazine, launched the “ugly food movement,” which encourages the magazine’s readers and social media users to use and consume fruits and vegetables with unappealing appearances. Cowin also believes such a movement would not just help the food insecure, but struggling farmers too.

“If we could stop wasting food, imagine how many more people we could feed! If shoppers looked at crooked carrots, misshapen potatoes, slightly dinged apples or too-small peaches and thought, wow, that looks delicious, imagine the benefits for struggling farmers. If home cooks shopped in their own vegetable bin before going to the market, they would save money and help the environment, too, and all because they decided to rescue a vegetable before it turned bad. If we accept imperfect food, we can indeed change the world for the better.”

Potatoe Imperfect Bite
Imperfect Produce is a start-up company wanting to lessen the waste of ugly produce. (via Imperfect Produce)

Dana Cowin is not alone in such a crusade too. A new crowd-funded company, Imperfect Produce, is attempting to minimize produce waste of ugly produce too. They want to work with farmers to source out “cosmetically challenged” seasonal produce and deliver it to subscribers’ homes on a weekly basis. The setup for it is also a win-win. Farmers profit on produce which would usually end up in landfills. Subscribers save up to 50 percent compared to buying produce in grocery stores.

“You’re going to feel good, knowing that by eating Imperfect, you’re helping to reduce food waste and protect the environment from the green house gasses that rotting food emits.”

Dana Cowin’s “ugly food movement” and Imperfect Produce are just two of many start-ups, companies, and movements trying to show the world that ugly food can surely sustain the world’s population. If we get past our association of how food looks to how it tastes, we may even be able to put a dent in hunger too.

[Image via Food Navigator]

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