Ugly Fruit Could Lead to a Prettier World

It’s happened to all of us.

When sorting through the apples at the grocery store, you see an ugly, weird-looking apple. Whether it’s a weird color, has spots, or is a weird shape, you wonder how it made it onto the shelves.

Who would buy and eat this?

Most people would not buy ugly produce. Which is why it is rare to see funky-shaped fruit or off-colored veggies. So what happens to this produce?

In the United States food waste is estimated at 30-40% of the food supply. To give you a better idea: 31% equals 133 billion pounds of food.

133 BILLION POUNDS.

You might be thinking: wow, that’s a lot of food. But why does it matter? Doesn’t it all rot and break down anyways? Well, yes. Food waste is the single largest component to landfills and all that rotting food generates methane and releases it into the atmosphere. And it’s not just bought, non-eaten food; the majority of it never even made it to your grocery store’s shelves.

Driver Aaron Cornine lowers the back of the truck after dumping his load of food and compostable waste at Missouri Organic's Liberty facility, July 9, 2009. Much of it is covered in dough from baked goods. (Photo by Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)

Driver Aaron Cornine lowers the back of the truck after dumping his load of food and compostable waste at Missouri Organic’s Liberty facility, July 9, 2009. Much of it is covered in dough from baked goods. (Photo by Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)

20-40% of fruits and vegetables are rejected even before they reach grocery stores! And even more are rejected on site, because grocery stores and companies have incredibly high standards for what their produce should look like. That includes color, shape, size, weight, and length. And the food that doesn’t meet these standards is thrown away.

What? Why?! If it’s perfectly good food why isn’t it donated?

There are incredibly strict laws about food donation that actually makes it illegal to donate food that doesn’t meet standards that are similar to those of the grocery store as well as laws that restrict this food from being used as animal feed.

And it’s not just in the United States. 10% of rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions come from food that was grown and never eaten.

But that’s not all! Food waste not only contributes to climate change, but also food insecurity and extreme poverty.

As stated above, in the greatest food wasting countries, there are laws that restrict produce from being donated to people in need. By reducing food waste, a third of the world’s entire food supply could be saved. That’s enough to feed 3 billion people.

Also, by reducing food waste, farmers all over the world could sell more of their produce and stimulate their rural, agricultural economies. In fact, 70% of the world’s poor live in rural communities. By growing tons of food that is then rejected by food companies due to appearance, farmers around the globe are stretching their resources to the limit. These rules on “produce cosmetics” contribute to the continuation of the vicious cycle of extreme poverty.

Who knew food waste contributes to so many issues currently facing our world? But, what can I do?

Well, there are many ways to get involved in ending food waste!

  1. You can find tips on how to reduce food waste individually here.
  2. Participate in advocacy events hosted nearby like with Feedback Global, who hosts an event called “Feeding the 5000” where they seek to feed 5000 people with food that would have otherwise been wasted. See if they’re hosting an event near you.
  3. Encourage your local grocer to sell ugly produce. Food is food! Just this year, Whole Foods changed their standards due to social activism. Check it out here.
  4. Learn about what NGO’s are doing to aid farmers abroad. Read about how ugly sweet potatoes are making a huge difference in Malawi, where drought and famine is continuing problem. Read the Concern story here; these ugly potatoes may be on your grocery shelves soon!
  5. Share this post to teach your friends and family the dangers of food waste.

So show those ugly fruits and veggies some love; and make global change while you do it.ir.ashx

Katie is a summer intern with Concern Worldwide U.S.