It seems that food waste is having a moment.
When we launched I Value Food a year ago, we knew the food waste issue was starting to get more attention, but we couldn’t foresee the tremendous progress the movement would make in 12 months. Looking back, 2015 may go down in history as the year Americans finally looked eye-to-eye with the 70-billion-pound mountain of food waste and decided to dismantle it.
Did you know that most grocery stores won’t buy bell peppers that can’t stand up straight? Strict produce cosmetic standards require peppers to have a perfect bell shape. “If you put it on a table and it tips over onto its side, it’s going to be rejected,” says Ben Simon.
Simon is one of the founders of Imperfect Produce, a startup we’ve recently added to our portfolio of investments. The San Francisco business sources cosmetically imperfect produce from farms and sells it in affordable weekly subscription boxes. In addition to moving this food back onto our plates, they are recovering the energy, water, and other resources used to grow all of that so called “ugly’ produce.
In recent years, an international movement to embrace “ugly” produce has taken root. The idea is simple – by using the edible, but slightly less beautiful fruits and vegetables that are typically discarded, we can decrease food waste and feed more people. Some of the U.K.’s biggest supermarkets have embraced this concept. Here in the states, while some charities and food banks have been doing this kind of work for years, many American businesses are just starting to consider the problem and potential of ugly produce.