'Ugly Food Movement' aims to reduce food waste

Published: Jul. 22, 2015 at 2:29 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2015 at 5:00 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - When you buy fruits and vegetables, you choose the best looking ones, right? You may not know that about one third of produce grown in the world gets thrown out simply because it's considered "ugly," according to estimates from the United Nations Environment Program.

Would you choose a tomato that had a bump on the skin? Duane Slyder, with online farmers market Farm Table, showed us examples of a so-called "ugly" tomato.

"It has a little bump on it. There's nothing wrong with that tomato whatsoever, but that little bump. You wouldn't see that at the grocery store," said Slyder.

What about a two-legged radish? "You can see this one has two tendrils," said Slyder. "You definitely wouldn't see this one [for sale]."

You won't find these fruits and veggies in most grocery stores. They're considered too "ugly" to sell, even though they may be as fresh and nutritious as others from the same crop.

The United Nations estimates that one third of produce grown in the world gets thrown out because it's ugly. Some of it gets used for fertilizer, to feed livestock, or given to food banks. But most gets thrown away.

"That's 30 percent of perfectly edible food that could be going toward feeding people that need the food," said Carlyn Covington with Farm Table.

In response, stores in Europe and Australia launched ads supporting an effort called the Ugly Food Movement to create demand for this produce. They started selling it at discount. At France's Intermarche grocery chain, store traffic increased 24 percent.

"Who says you're not eligible for supermarkets, who?" asked an Intermarche ad for a two legged carrot. "You've got to start believing in yourself. Otherwise, nobody else will!"

Now the Ugly Food Movement is starting to take root in the U.S. Farm Table includes some ugly fruits and vegetables in its home-delivered produce.

"It doesn't matter what it looks like," said Slyder. "What matters is how it tastes and how nutritious it is."

Homegrown Virginia, a food packaging service, invites local farmers to bring their ugly produce in for canning. And Bon Appetit Management Company launched its Imperfectly Delicious Produce Program, sending ugly foods to restaurants and cafeterias that it serves nationwide.

We asked grocery chains in Central Virginia if they support the "Ugly Food Movement." Two chains responded"

Wegmans sent us a video showing how they reduce waste by donating surplus food. "Wegmans donated 15 million pounds of food to food banks," says the video. Wegmans says it is also experimenting with turning food waste into bio-fuel.

Kroger told us, "When we do have produce that's misshapen, small or disfigured, we verify that the quality is still good and then offer the product at a discounted price."

If you want to support the Ugly Food Movement as a consumer, you can usually find so-called ugly produce at farmer's markets and discount grocery stores.

Copyright 2015 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved