Vegetables are a lot like people. They come in all shapes and sizes, and most of the time they're flawed. And just like us, they're judged on their appearances. We've all been told time and time again that it's what's on the inside that counts. We repeat that mantra to our children, our friends and even ourselves all the time, but we don't practice that philosophy in other parts of our lives -- such as grocery shopping.
At the supermarket, while perusing the produce aisle, we demand perfection every single time. The apple has to be perfectly round and shiny -- no matter that its reflective skin is a result of an added wax. The carrot must be perfectly straight. The beet can't have too many hairy roots. And god forbid the potato should come with an additional growth, because ew, am I right?
Judging produce on its appearance is bad for the world, and not just for what it does to the vegetable's self esteem. When we reject ugly produce we are basically throwing away perfectly good food -- 300 million tons of it each year, according to the research for Intermarche's campaign -- while 870 million people in the world are going hungry. There's something terribly wrong with this picture, and it doesn't have to be that way.
Europe made a change when they called 2014 the year to end food waste. NPR's The Salt just brought this to our attention with a smart piece that highlights all the amazing supermarket campaigns that have taken place in France, Portugal, Spain and the UK this past year. According to NPR, certain grocery stores overseas have created clever campaigns to attract people to ugly fruit (watch the video above to see one such example).
How are they changing people's perception of unattractive produce? Prices. These grocery stores offer misshapen produce at cheaper prices. It's so smart because not only does this practice save perfectly tasty fruits and vegetables from being thrown out but it also makes fresh produce available to those with tighter food budgets. Win, win.
There's one problem though: us. We stateside are lagging behind in this great movement to prevent food waste. But here's what we can do, we can ask our grocery stores why we don't have ugly produce options. We can seek out the least attractive fruits and vegetables at the farmers market. We can take food waste into our own hands, and declare for ourselves that 2015 be the year we stop wasting produce -- and we can all start embracing the naturalness of flaws.