You know all those perfectly edible, tasty fruits and vegetables, discarded for their not-so-perfect appearance? Now we’re finally starting to see a rise in initiatives combatting this shameful waste. The latest example comes from France, where the Intermarché supermarket has launched the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign with the aim of reducing food waste. The engaging, awareness-raising campaign turns the spotlight on our most spoiled sense, sight. Now, their eyes deceived, supermarket customers can try out juices, soups and smoothies made from unattractive fruits and vegetables. They might be ugly, but they’re still tasty. After all, ugly means nothing. What matters is taste, and in this case also price. “Differently beautiful” fruits and vegetables are now being sold for 30% less. The misunderstood are finally getting their revenge.
An estimated 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted in the world every year, with 900 million tons “lost” between harvest and retail, more than double what is thrown out by the consumer. Supermarkets have an environmental obligation to work on the source of the problem. They have a duty to stop perfectly sound fruits and vegetables being discarded for purely esthetic reasons.
But what responsibilities do consumers have? Many initiatives have been started to try to encourage more aware consumption. Josh Treuhaft, for example, has started the Salvage Supper Club, inviting Brooklynites to dinners based on leftovers that he himself calls unusual, ugly and old. He salvages them from all over, from friends’ refrigerators, restaurant kitchens and supermarket warehouses. The aim is to convince customers that they should not be guided by the expiry date stamped on the package, or the unusual esthetics of a vegetable, but by common sense. We do wonder if the fact that the dinners are served in a dumpster decked out with party lights is a way of sweetening the pill or just giving the event a worthy setting. Details.
Meanwhile the Slow Food Youth Network has already organized a number of anti-waste days with their Disco Soup events: Young people collect huge quantities of discarded food (mostly fruits and vegetables) from local markets. To the sound of music, squares around the world fill with eager cooks armed with cutting boards and vegetable peelers, ready to turn the rejected produce into soups and giant salads. Many cities have already taken part.
So let’s hear it for the ugly—not to mention tasty—fruits and vegetables. They’ll be the ones to save us!
Find out more about Slow Food's position on food waste.