By Larraine Roulston:
In a league of their own are classy carrots with a twist, popular potatoes sporting scars, delicious apples decorated with dimples, and beets boasting blemishes. These fruits and vegetables with character are beautifully nutritious from the inside out!
Due to an aggressive attempt to combat food waste, these perfectly edible foods are slowly becoming a popular choice offered in some grocery stores. What’s more, research from Virginia orchardist Eliza Greenman has shown that these foods with blemishes on their surface and leaves are in fact healthier. These deformities, she believes, are signs of stress from battling infection, thus making these foods stronger from their struggle to survive by relying on their own antioxidant defenses. Greenman found that they also possess a higher sugar and antioxidant content. In the 2014 Newcastle Study researchers found that “antioxidant levels are 19 to 69 percent higher in organic produce.”
The year to fight food waste was declared in 2014, when the French supermarket Intermarché introduced its “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign. In Canada, Loblaws, the giant food chain, is leading the way with its Naturally Imperfect line and hopefully will inspire other grocery stores to follow suit. Several U.S. states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, California stock year-round items of Imperfect Produce at discount prices ranging from 20-50% lower than traditionally favored foods. Walmart, as well, is in the throes of testing this concept.
It makes both environmental and economic sense to highlight blemished foods. The benefits are many!
All shoppers now have a choice to purchase quality produce at discounted prices. Where “food insecurity” effects approximately 15% of U.S. citizens, this opportunity benefits particularly low-income families.
Either way, if a grocery store, such as one Trader Joe’s outlet in Chicago where my daughter shops, offers oddly shaped produce to those in need or sells it at a reduced rate, its bottom line will be improved. By giving away edible food, under a recent law that federal legislation passed last December, grocers are entitled to receive a tax break for their charitable donations. By selling a marketable product, grocers will not only make money, but also eliminate the food’s waste disposal fee.
An estimated 10% of greenhouse gas emissions stem from the production, packaging and transportation of food that never gets eaten. If these organics are not composted, they will continue to add to the landfill burden.
With the new movement, farmers will be able to sell a larger portion of their harvest, as they will not need to meet the absurd cosmetic standards that once applied.
The irony of all of this reminded me of Disney’s memorable Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, when we saw that Snow White was unable to resist the perfectly shaped apple that had been dipped in toxins. To change our perspective on beauty, a lot depends on more positive and effective public education to encourage citizens to act with cheerful readiness, foregoing aesthetics for healthier produce at discounted prices. When promoting these natural fruits and vegetables, advertising agencies representing grocery chains need to channel their creative marketing skills similar to Doyle Dane Bernbach’s classic Avis advertising campaign: “We’re Number 2. We Work Harder to be Healthier.” Artists who paint still life fruits, animators and shoppers need to rethink beauty.
Larraine authors children’s adventure books on composting at www.castlecompost.com