After watching a recent show on food waste by John Oliver, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of the most surprising problems he mentioned on the show — in his words, how “our own habits and misconceptions” contribute to food waste before it even reaches the grocery store or farmers market stand.
About 26% of produce is wasted in the U.S. before it even reaches the grocery store. ~EndFoodWaste.org
Every year about 40% of perfectly edible food in the U.S. is wasted. ~EndFoodWasteNow.com
Our Habits & Misconceptions
Three of the important misconceptions he details include:
- Believing that blemished, scarred, or misshapen fruit and vegetables are somehow worse than perfectly shaped and colored fruit. We all know they taste the same and contain the exact same nutrients, but most of us instinctually buy based on aesthetics.
- Thinking that something must be wrong with the last apple for sale – i.e. that slim pickings means there’s something wrong with whatever’s left. It might actually mean the fruit was so appealing that everyone else bought all of it already. But unless it appears bountiful, we probably won’t buy it, which leads to overstocking.
- Assuming that we see all viable produce for sale in our grocery stores and farmers’ markets. Because we only buy beautiful produce, there are visual grading standards, and ugly (but not bad) fruit doesn’t even make the cut. Most retailers have pretty strict aesthetic standards.
I’m absolutely guilty of sizing up a pile of produce and then only selecting the most perfect specimen, regardless of what I’ll be using that particular fruit or vegetable to make. Admittedly, this makes no sense when making dishes like pies, stuffing, or casseroles. It’s cooked down to create the fillings and then covered by a crust. Or, it’s diced and added to stuffing and casseroles.
Do We Really Need the Prettiest Pears, Apples, and Pumpkins?
So in light of the upcoming holidays, I just wanted to help by throwing my words and Candace’s beautiful illustrations behind the people leading the charge on the good fight to end food waste.
A few ways we can help end food waste this holiday season:
- Eat more ugly fruit and vegetables! Chopped, diced, julienned, and mashed.
- Pick the ugliest produce you can find. Every time you size up the produce aisle, think to yourself, “Do I really need the prettiest produce?”
- Ask the farmers at your local market what happens to their ugly fruit. If they don’t sell it, express your interest in buying it.
- Sign EndFoodWaste.org’s petitions to convince Whole Foods and Walmart to sell their ugly produce like many retailers in Europe do already.
- Share a photo of your ugly fruit on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with the hashtags #eatuglyfruit, #endfoodwaste, #whatthefork, #loveuglyfood.
- Share this info with a friend — especially foodies, food bloggers, and people who love to eat!
The Bottom Line
I don’t usually write about food here, but cooking is a huge part of my creative life, and food is one of the reasons I moved to San Francisco (all the produce!) and a huge part of how I travel. So I could’t resist being a part of helping to spread the word on this issue.
It’s rare when solving an important problem is contingent on simply being aware of the problem and making easy, but different choices, and when social media seems like such an obvious part of the solution, especially with the influence and weight of the food community in Northern California.
Our buying habits have consequences, usually unforeseen at first, and simply changing our buying habits can help solve this problem and make a big dent in ending food waste.
Please share organizations, links, hashtags, or relevant information on ending food waste in the comments. I’ve just begun to learn about this issue and am no expert, but I’m looking forward to learning much more.
For More Information
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Food Waste
- EndFoodWaste.org and @endfoodwaste on Twitter.
- 4 Ways to End Food Waste, Modern Farmer
- Join the #WhatTheFork Campaign and Help End Food Waste, Food and Wine
- Free the ugly produce!: Business-savvy millennials are tackling food waste — one cosmetically challenged vegetable at a time, Salon
- Hungry Harvest (Serving the Mid Atlantic)
- This Is How Much Water You Waste When You Throw Away Food, Smithsonian
- Bay Area Startup ‘Imperfect’ Wants To Sell You Ugly Fruits & Vegetables (Ugly Food Friday)