Ugly Produce

The movement to save imperfect fruits and veggies from going to waste grows

Most grocers only stock fruits and vegetables that appear flawless in the aesthetic sense. Because of this, farmers often end up trashing perfectly good food, with 20-40% of fresh produce going unused. Yet, sometimes, even the perfectly round tomato is flavorless and mushy, while the bumpy, multicolored one may be the tastier option. In response, recent initiatives seek to reduce global food waste—and, at the same time, reap profits.

082415-1Hungry Harvest: The founders of Hungry Harvest started the D.C.-based surplus produce delivery service as a way to reconcile a serious gap in the U.S. food distribution system: 6 billion pounds of fresh produce are wasted annually, while 51 million Americans don’t have access to healthy foods. The company offers weekly harvests of otherwise “rejected” fruits and vegetables, acquired from farmers and wholesalers, that are dropped off at subscribers’ doors every weekend; for each delivery, Healthy Harvest donates a nutritious meal to someone in need. Available in quantities appropriate for one-person households and families alike, the program is also more affordable than typical CSAs, costing just $15-$35/week.

082415-3Fruitcycle: Fruitcycle is a social enterprise with a mission to “provide second chances.” In fact, its goal of creating new opportunities is two-fold: the company makes fruit and veggie snacks—including Handcrafted and Hopeful Cinnamon Apple Chips and Super-Kale-Fragilistic Chips—using landfill-bound produce, while also providing jobs for women who have been formerly incarcerated, homeless, or are otherwise disadvantaged. The healthy nibbles are made almost entirely from excess or “ugly” produce sourced from small family farms located within 100 miles of D.C. As of this past winter, Fruitcycle had already rescued more than 5,000 pounds of imperfect, yet still delicious, apples.

082415-2Kromkommer: Despite the fact that fruit and vegetable oddities often serve as like-bait on Instagram—think a carrot with “crossed legs”—such farmer’s market finds don’t usually make it to brick-and-mortar retail. However, new Dutch brand Kromkommer is trying to resolve this injustice by getting “ugly” produce onto grocery store shelves…in disguise. The company, which raised launch money through a crowdfunding campaign last year, highlights global food waste by transforming “wonky” produce into beautifully packaged, richly hued soups, such as gazpacho and classic tomato. Last autumn, Kromkommer organized Bijna Waste Geweest Feest, a festival where 6,300 kilos of imperfect produce were sold.