How ugly fruits and vegetables can save World Hunger

The Power of Ugly Fruits and Vegetables

You know, they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Well in this case, you shouldn’t judge food by its skin, shape or size. It seems that people are in search of food that is perfect and aesthetically pleasing in shape, size and colour. But what in nature is actually flawless? I don’t think I have ever seen the same size or shape potato or pepper and yet people take their time to inspect the produce bins, searching for that perfect specimen.

While reading through National Geographic, a surprising statistic made me think of the aesthetic perception of fruit and vegetables that people often idealize. According to this statistic, 6 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables go unharvested or unsold in the US annually; and this is often for aesthetic reasons. This is quite unsettling, especially when millions of people suffer from hunger worldwide annually.

The so called “Ugly Food Movement” advocates for the ugly fruit and vegetables in our markets that people seem to skim over. These campaigns aim to educate people that, while the food may not look pretty it tastes just as delicious and nutritious as any other fruit or vegetable.

Activist Tristram Stewart, the founder of an organization that campaigns against food waste, finds ways to educate communities about the impacts of food waste and the benefits of unwanted food. In March, Tristram ran an event to cook a meal for 50 people using only ingredients that were intended to be thrown away. He rounded up 75 pounds of “too crooked” squash along with apples, turnips and zucchini to make the meal. The fact that Stewart can feed a full meal to 50 people using just unwanted food means that imperfect food is capable of producing a delicious meal.

The environmental impacts that come from this ideal makes you think of how privileged we truly are to even be able to choose the perfect specimens for our meals. Producing food that no one eats not only leads to obscene amounts of food waste (remember, billions of pounds a year) but it also consumes water, fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, land for it to grow and fuel for it travel to and from farm to store to landfill.

So next time you are at the grocery store choose the imperfect produce! Pick that beautiful wonky apple, misshapen potato, contorted squash or skinny zucchini and make the same dinner as you would have before. Join the Ugly Food Movement and be mindful that billions of food goes to waste every year, all because it was simply not very good looking. As I said, we were always taught never to judge a book by its cover, and grabbing a potato by its three heads just might help solve world hunger. And I promise you, you won’t grow three heads from eating it.

To learn more, read this article!