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Eat Your Wonky Vegetables Dept: Those rows of glossy, flawless apples you see at the store, it turns out, come at a grim cost: The U.S. and other developed countries waste up to 40% of their food, bringing total global food waste to a staggering 1.3 billion tons worth almost $400 billion, and wreaking environmental havoc with it. Cue fabulously sensible new campaigns to discount produce that's "naturally imperfect," creating an improbable win-win all around - for farmers, consumers, the planet and the feelings of uncomely vegetables alike.
According to a 2013 report, the production of food that's not eaten because it's not cute enough for grocery shelves devours an amount of water equal to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River. Most of the food waste is dumped in landfills, where it decomposes and releases over 3 billion tons of methane, a greenhouse gas. Globally, organic waste accounts for at least 7 percent of greenhouse gas emissions; if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest producer of emissions behind China and the U.S.
Enter Loblaws, Canada's largest food retailer, which has launched the No Name Naturally Imperfect campaign, offering "ugly" - like the rest of us, less than perfect on the outside and just as divine on the inside - fruits and vegetables at a discount of up to 30%. They've started with apples and potatoes, and hope eventually to include most produce. The launch in Canada, which each year wastes over $31 billion worth of food, reflects growing international efforts to combat the obscenity of rich countries tossing enough food to feed most of the world's estimated 870 million hungry people.
There are now initiatives by the U.N., the E.U., the USDA, the LoveFoodHateWaste movement, an array of U.S. websites, and several companies in France and England. The French supermarket Intermarché dubbed its campaign “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables,” complete with slick visuals of enticing if not conventionally handsome produce; it brought a 24% uptick in store traffic. The UK's supermarket giant Asda also launched a highly successful “Wonky Vegetable” effort; its slogan, "Beautiful on the Inside." Social media has joined in with hashtags like #EndFoodWaste and, in a sort of food porn, lookit-these-kinky-eggplants realm, #UglyFruitandVeg. Notes one entry, "Ugly fruits & vegetables need love, too."