WASHINGTON — Take a walk down any produce aisle and you’re sure to see fruits and veggies piled high and stacked perfectly.
You’ve probably even wondered how everything from our cucumbers and carrots, to peaches and plums look so similar in shape and size.
The pretty appearance helps grocers attract the eye of consumers, but what’s on the shelves is only what has made it past the stores’ strict aesthetic standards.
Nearly 26 percent of what’s grown in the U.S. goes to waste because it’s too “ugly,” according to EndFoodWaste.org.
The #WhatTheFork petition aims to change that by calling on big grocers like Walmart and Whole Foods to sell the “uglies.”
“A quarter of all produce going to waste – one in six hungry – is a real shame. It’s a waste. We should not be doing this,” says Jordan Figueiredo, founder of the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign.
Figueiredo recently started the petition with nutritionist Stefanie Sacks.
Despite their appearance, Figueiredo says there’s nothing wrong with eating the outcast produce.
“In most cases it’s only a little big or a little small. That’s the only difference,” he says.
Figueiredo adds uglies can be sold for as much as 30-50 percent off, similar to what stores in Europe, Canada and Australia have done.
“People, once they get over that visual stigma, then they buy it, they find out it’s delicious and it does well,” he says.
“If you did not know that this was surplus produce, if I did not tell you it, you would have no idea,” says Evan Lutz, CEO and co-founder of Hungry Harvest, a food delivery service in the D.C.-area started by University of Maryland graduates.
For $15 to $35 a bag, Hungry Harvest delivers surplus fruits and vegetables bought directly from farmers in the Mid-Atlantic.
Aside from saving millions of pounds of wasted food every year, ugly produce could also go toward feeding America’s hungry.
There are about 45 million Americans in poverty and 16 million children face hunger, according to Feeding America.
“We have malnutrition issues, we have food deserts, we have folks that are hungry and then, of course, produce is not super cheap either,” Figueiredo says.
And Lutz says for every bag Hungry Harvest delivers, it also donates a healthy meal to someone in need.
So far, more than 15,000 have signed the #WhatTheFork petition and Figueiredo says they expect it will take at least 100,000 to get the attention of Walmart and Whole Foods.
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