"Ugly" Produce - A Beautiful Solution

Want to know how we could save 200,000 lives? Here's a solution: Sell ugly produce.

While 90 percent of Americans don't eat enough fruits and veggies, approximately 26 percent of produce is wasted before it makes it to U.S. grocery stores. The reason? Long-standing, optional cosmetic standards imposed on farmers by large grocers and produce marketing associations -- standards that are concerned with looks instead of taste, shelf-life, or nutrition.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Last July, I started a petition with Culinary Nutritionist Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN and author of What The Fork Are You Eating?, as part of my ongoing @UglyFruitAndVeg campaign to educate shoppers and get retailers across the world to sell ugly produce. The What the Fork? petition urged Whole Foods Market and Walmart to sell "ugly" produce in their U.S. stores.

In short order, we received support from more than 111,000 Change.org signers, and as a result of remarkable media attention and the help of best-selling author and food activist, Robyn O'Brien, we were able to connect directly with Whole Foods' global staff.

"When Stefanie and her team reached out, asking for introductions to retailers, this was a no-brainer. Making produce affordable to more families is a win for the health of our families, our country and our economy," Robyn said.

We educated Whole Foods staff about food waste, highlighting the multiple possibilities of selling not-so-perfect fruits and vegetables. We then connected them to Imperfect Produce, an "ugly" produce delivery company in Emeryville, CA. Now the two companies are working together on a pilot to sell branded Imperfect fruits and vegetables -- a game changer in the grocery world!

When Whole Foods (long considered an expensive grocer) embraces "ugly" produce, it shows the great importance of this work to the nation. It is the latest win in this global revolution -- all around the world, from Canada to the U.K. to France and Australia, grocers and shoppers are saying a loud yes to "ugly" produce. The reason? The discounted price (up to 50% off!) and the chance to reduce waste.

Whole Foods Market's pilot program is an important first step. Giant Eagle -- the largest supermarket in the U.S. now selling "ugly" produce -- is onboard, too. Still, there is much more work to be done until all grocers in the U.S. start selling not-quite-perfect fruits and veggies. With that in mind, we're riding this momentum and petitioning the largest retailer in the U.S: Walmart.

As an industry leader with over 4,200 stores and a low cost business model, Walmart's decision to fight food waste and malnutrition by selling "uglies" would be huge, changing the demand for such produce everywhere.

The work ahead will not be easy, but the time is ripe and the end result is beautiful. So get ugly with us and join the call in asking Walmart to sell "ugly" produce. You might even want to start your own petition to your favorite grocer, which you can do very easily at Change.org.

With our collective voice, we can make it happen, we can end this produce discrimination!