These New Emojis Will Make You See Food Differently

They’re raising awareness about the massive problem of food waste.

This article is part of HuffPost’s “Reclaim” campaign, an ongoing project spotlighting the world’s waste crisis and how we can begin to solve it.

Now you can help raise awareness about food waste with every text.

In late September, food delivery service Hungry Harvest released a new emoji keyboard featuring odd-looking fruits and vegetables. The characters, which don’t look like the food you’d normally see in your local supermarket, include oddities such as a two-headed carrot and a misshapen strawberry giving a thumbs-up.

Hungry Harvest hopes its Ugly Produce! app (for iOS 10.0 or later) gets people texting and talking more about these kinds of foods so that they don’t go to waste, as they too often do. They might look strange, but they’re perfectly fine to eat.

“We’ve got ‘perfect’ fruits and veggies in our keyboards,” Hungry Harvest staffer Ritesh Gupta told ThinkProgress in an interview about the app. “Why don’t we yet have ones that have more personality, better express our feelings, and help bring awareness to some of the biggest issues of our time?”

Up to 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, while one in five households with kids doesn’t have enough to eat. A significant contributor to the problem is grocery chains rejecting produce because it does not meet standards for ideal size, shape or appearance, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Some food that isn’t eaten is composted or turned into animal feed, but most of it winds up in landfills, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Efforts have popped up across the country to change this. Whole Foods has begun selling imperfect produce in some stores in California, for instance, and Walmart launched an initiative this year to sell “ugly” apples and potatoes in Texas and Florida.

Hungry Harvest is a part of this movement. The service recovers rejected produce and, for a fee, delivers it to homes around Baltimore, D.C. and Philadelphia. For every delivery made, the company donates 1 to 2 pounds of produce through its donation partners or its free farmer’s markets for people in need. So far the group has recovered 1 million pounds of produce and donated almost 300,000 pounds.

Author's text message exchange with a friend after downloading the Ugly Produce! app.
Author's text message exchange with a friend after downloading the Ugly Produce! app.

Hungry Harvest’s Ugly Produce! app isn’t perfect, though. It features only 13 emojis, and they’re not integrated with Apple’s full emoji keyboard. When you open iMessage, you access Ugly Produce! by clicking the right arrow above the keyboard to expand, and then the “A” icon where you would normally find GIFs. It’s not exactly user-friendly.

That’s probably why Hungry Harvest started a petition on four weeks ago ― timed with the release of the Ugly Produce! app ― asking Apple, Google and Unicode to make ugly produce part of standard emoji keyboards. As of Wednesday, the petition had fewer than 500 signatures.

“We hope this campaign helps to bring new audiences into the movement, including folks who aren’t as familiar with the food waste movement,” Hungry Harvest’s Gupta told ThinkProgress. “We also hope Unicode, Apple, and Google take notice and help further the cause.”

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