(UR) United States — Wal-Mart, America’s biggest food retailer, will start selling ‘ugly’ fruit in order to help reduce food waste. While some prattle on about how there are food shortages requiring our use of genetically modified organisms, more than 40 percent of all food grown, shipped, cooked, and served is thrown away in America every year.
Meanwhile, one in six Americans is considered food unstable, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from. It is possible to end food waste and hunger, but we need to be looking at food from a new angle.
Why We Need to Address Food Waste
Those glossy fruits and vegetables you see in Whole Foods, Target, Kroger, and other grocery stores in the U.S. are often hand-picked, covered in wax, and other ‘beautifying’ agents to make them look more appealing to ensure that people will purchase them. Fruit that is bruised, oddly shaped, or somehow unattractive, though still entirely edible, is unfortunately discarded.
This practice has contributed to several thousand tons of produce going into the trash heap every year when it could have been feeding someone who was hungry. In fact, fruits and vegetables, as well as roots and tubers, have the highest food waste rate. Oddly, they are also some of the most needed foods in most American diets. Even for Americans who don’t face food ‘shortages,’ a startling 87 percent don’t meet the daily recommendations for fruit intake, and 91 percent don’t reach the suggested vegetable intake.
You can imagine how those numbers might shift to an even more dangerous scale for those who are having difficulty finding any food at all. This doesn’t need to be the case, though.
Fortunately, Walmart is among other companies looking at food from a new perspective. Since food waste creates food insecurity, as well as a dependence on the biotech model of food creation, which depletes our soil and causes a lack in biodiversity, we need to use all of our edible food.
Apples Are Some of the Most Often Wasted Fruit
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives a green light to non-browning, GM apples despite consumer concerns, stores like Walmart have just started to feature bruised or dented apples, called “I’m Perfect,” that will be sold in 2- and 5-pound bags in more than 300 stores in Florida.
Shawn Baldwin, senior vice president for global food sourcing, produce and floral for Wal-Mart U.S., writes in a company blog post, “We’re proud to be the first retailer to bring these apples to you.”
Apples can be one of the most often wasted fruits since blemishes caused by weather or transport can account for a more than 30 percent loss rate. Wal-Mart has more than 4,000 stores in the U.S., so just selling bruised apples, alone, could make a huge dent in the hunger crisis we face globally.
Many Retailers Are Joining the Ugly Fruit Business Model
Wal-Mart isn’t the first, but it is possibly the biggest, chain to sell ‘ugly’ fruit, and that could make a big impact. Other stores, like Whole Foods, recently announced a similar effort to reduce food waste in Northern California; and Giant Eagle is doing the same with a pilot program to sell less-than-perfect produce, called “Produce with a Personality,” for a discount in Pittsburgh-area stores. Canadian supermarket chains Safeway, IGA, and Loblaws have all had success selling ugly fruit, also.
This practice amounts to less ‘shrink’ for mega-food retailers, but it also means that less food waste ends up in our landfills, and ‘personality-filled’ fruit also becomes vogue to eat again.
Donating Bruised Produce to Local Food Banks
In addition to the practice of offering bruised fruit for purchase at major retailers, we are also getting better at collecting excess food from farms, gardens, and restaurants so that food shelters can deliver it people who are food insecure.
New York City-based non-profit organization, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, for example, delivers food gleaned from local restaurants to homeless shelters. They can deliver unused, fresh food for less than 10 cents a pound, one of the best in the nascent food recovery industry.
Lovin’ Spoonfuls in Boston, Massachusetts, even picks up the excess harvest from local farms and delivers it to those who are hungry. The food they ‘rescue’ is not spoiled, rotten, or out of code. It may not look perfect, but is still nutritious and delicious. They’ve saved more than 4 million pounds of food to date.
Every little bit counts. Wal-Mart joining the effort to save food, even if it isn’t perfect, certainly makes it more ‘mainstream.’ The next time you want to bake an apple pie, think of buying some ugly fruit. You’d be supporting the end of food waste.
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