Here’s something few of us ever think about: produce beauty standards. Specifically, the tendency of grocery stores such as Wal-Mart and Whole Foods to sell only “attractive” produce, and throwing the uglies away. That’s right, turns out that carrots are not all straight and long, potatoes have shovel scars sometimes and apples can be of a weird shape. But none of us see that when we go grocery shopping, because stores throw cosmetically challenged produce away before it even hits the shelves.
It is currently estimated that as much as 26% of all produce in the United States gets thrown away before it reaches the shelves. This is not about rotten, diseased or otherwise inedible vegetables. This is about produce that is just as nutritious (and delicious) as the one in the shelves, but “ugly”. This waste is not joking matter as it contributes to food shortages, water waste, greenhouse emissions and unhealthy diets in the population.
In the US, 80% of all fresh water goes to agriculture and farming, according to the USDA. Besides, the GRACE Communications Foundation states that the American food system is responsible for 33% of all the human-made greenhouse gas emissions in the country. It’s easy to see how wasting more than one quarter of our produce can have an incredibly negative impact in our environment. And it’s infuriating to know that the only reason for this is artificial “beauty” standards we are imposing to the food we eat.
What’s more infuriating is the fact that even in a developed country like the US, there are millions of people who do not know where their next meal is coming from. According to Feeding America, one in six people in the US are food insecure. But even those of us lucky enough to have a full pantry have to battle malnutrition. The CDC estimates that more than four in five people in the US are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. And we are throwing those veggies away before they even have a chance at the stores.
Jordan Figureredo of the End Food Waste Campaign decided it’s time to end this, so he launched a petition in Change.org to get Wal-Mart and Whole Foods to stop throwing away billions of fruits and vegetables that are perfectly fine to eat. This petition wants the two store chains to update their policies and sell “ugly” produce for a discount price instead of preemptively throwing it away. You can contribute by signing the petition and promoting the campaign in social media. And of course, next time you go grocery shopping, give uglies a chance. After all, in a country where food deserts are still a thing, throwing away a banana just because it’s not perfectly curved seems like a silly thing to do, right?