SOCIAL ISSUES

Efforts underway to save ugly produce and reach food deserts

BY Joanna Gagis, Producer/Correspondent |

Did you know that America wastes about 20 billion pounds of good fruits and vegetables every year just because of appearance?

That’s why Imperfect Produce co-founders Ben Simon and Ben Chesler started Imperfect Produce, a company that saves unattractive, but still perfectly fine, produce. The company help people like farmers, who often lose 25 to 50% of their crop because it’s not pretty enough for the grocery store, and also has a huge environmental impact.

Unsellable crops are often taken from the farm and dropped in a landfill. As the produce rots, it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that releases into the atmosphere. But Imperfect picks up the unwanted food items from the farm and delivers it right to peoples’ homes. The California company just expanded into New Jersey, and will reach places like Newark and Jersey City that are known for being food deserts.

According to Carlos Rodriguez, the CEO of Community Foodbank of New Jersey, there are about a million supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP, recipients. Roughly 900,000 New Jerseyans are what’s considered food insecure, or unsure where their next meal will come from.

The Community Foodbank of New Jersey also runs a food capturing program that’s rescued 16 million pounds of food in a single year. But it’s not enough. A huge amount of the food wasted each year happens in people’s home, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2015 it launched an initiative to reduce 50% of food waste by the year 2030. Some tips from that initiative include thinking before you buy. Whether at the grocery store or in a restaurant, they’re asking consumers not to purchase or cook more than they can consume to prevent food from ending up in the trashing and going into a landfill.