[Update on 13 July @ 0600: Suzanne Goldenberg, writes Half of all US food produce is thrown away, new research suggests.] While I was in college I volunteered at the local food co-op once a week in exchange for a discount on food I bought there. I stocked shelves, sliced and wrapped cheese and performed many other needful functions during my four-hour shift. The students, and many townies as well, shopped at the co-op for the lower prices and access to organic and locally grown produce. I used to see some really strange looking produce there. The local farmers weren't growing the odd looking fruits and vegetables, the co-op simply chose to not discard the odd two-pronged carrot or apple with a small puncture mark because we understood that such blemishes had nothing to do with the safety or nutritional value of the food. That's the point being made by Jordan Figueiredo and EndFoodWaste and Figueiredo hopes to convince Walmart to start selling ugly fruits and vegetables. Alexander Kaufman, reporting in 100,000 People Have A Message For Walmart About Its Food for The Huffington Post, writes:
A petition demanding Walmart start selling ugly fruits and vegetables hit 100,000 signatures on Friday, and the effort could put pressure on the superstore chain to tackle the country’s food waste crisis. Nearly 26 percent of all produce grown in the U.S. gets thrown away because supermarkets refuse to stock misshapen or dinged-up fruits and vegetables that don’t meet stringent cosmetic standards. A decision by Walmart---by far the nation’s largest grocer---to sell such produce could send ripples throughout the industry. “It’s very exciting to see 100,000 signatures,” Jordan Figueiredo, the California-based food waste activist who started the petition, told The Huffington Post by email. “It’s a milestone that says Walmart’s customers are ready for an ‘ugly’ produce offering.”
In the Internet Age, where stupid-cat videos get millions of likes and up-votes, 100,000 signatures is nothing to really celebrate, but Figueiredo's campaign is spot on nonetheless.
About 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten each year, a particularly appalling statistic when you consider that one in seven American households struggles to afford regular, healthful meals. Worse, that food waste mostly ends up in landfills, where it rots and emits methane, the most potent greenhouse gas warming the planet and changing the climate. Plus, wasting food is expensive. The U.S. spends a total of $218 billion each year growing, shipping and disposing of food that’s never eaten, according to the nonprofit research consortium ReFED.
In the '90s I edited several magazines focused on municipal solid waste and how to deal with commercial food waste, foods too cosmetically damaged to sell, was always a topic of conversation. Walmart's dominant position in groceries makes any moves in this are big news. So too, are such moves by Walmart's competitors.
Whole Foods last month expanded a pilot program selling deformed mandarins otherwise rejected from supermarket shelves. Two venture-backed startups---including San Francisco-based Imperfect Produce, which is behind Whole Foods’ trial program---sell rejected fruits and veggies through subscription services and retail partnerships. Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket chain by revenue, uses its excess food waste to create energy to power its warehouses. The movement is already on Walmart’s radar. Asda, the company’s U.K. supermarket chain, already sells boxes of “wonky” vegetables for about 30 percent off regular prices. The program proved so successful, the company expanded the offer from 250 to 550 stores in March. Earlier this week, Walmart said it has considered importing a similar pilot program, but insisted U.S. shoppers may be less likely that Brits to buy aesthetically imperfect produce because they’re used to purchasing loose fruits and vegetables. British shoppers, by contrast, often buy their produce in boxes and bags, putting less emphasis on the individual foodstuffs.
Oh those crazy Brits with their bad teeth, mad cows and xenophobic referendum votes. Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.

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