Dear Friends of the Berea College Farm,
For those of us immersed in the food world, there seems to be an uptick in “ugly” food getting its day in the sun. Perhaps you’ve missed some of these less than glamorous headlines, but the Natural Resources Defense Council and the United Nations Environment Program have both estimated that as much as 20-40% of food is wasted simply because of “cosmetic” defects. Though folks have been doing good work on the post-consumer side of the food chain (redistribution of edibles and composting of non-edibles), not much has yet been done on the pre-consumer side of the equation.
It has often been said that we eat with our eyes, but does the idealized apple taste any sweeter than the unsprayed, heirloom variety with blotchy skin? Of course not! In fact, how many of you have brought home that perfectly round and red tomato in the dead of winter only to liken the flavor to cardboard? I bet a good many of you are raising your hands. Keep your hand up if you know you’re guilty of picking through the produce bin to find the best looking pepper. Thought so!
The obvious truth is that perfect symmetry does not necessarily equate to perfect flavor. Unfortunately, most growers are beholden to uniformity standards when it comes to the size, shape, and color of your favorite produce. The result? Flavorless food that looks good on the shelf, but may well go on to get thrown away as soon as a discerning eater takes the first bite. Broader impacts include farmlands turning to dust as the water to grow all this excess begins to dry up. Dig a little further and you’ll find perfectly edible food piling up in landfills while children in nearby communities either go hungry or are left with little options beyond the food byproducts sold on the dollar menu.
On the bright side, the “ugly food movement” is beginning to pick up steam in places like Europe and Australia. France’s third largest supermarket launched a viral video campaign to promote the blemished beauties and the idea is spreading. Here in the United States, folks in drought-stricken California can now opt to buy Imperfect Produce purchased directly from farmers and delivered to their door. But you don’t have to wait for this growing trend to find its way to Kentucky – it’s already here. Pretty much all of the soups, salads, and other ready-to-eat goodies at the Berea College Farm Store are made from the produce our shoppers have rejected and very little edible food makes it out to the farm compost pile. Also, just this past Saturday, GleanKy paid a visit to our very own Berea Farmers Market and collected around 200 pounds of leftover produce to distribute to low-income neighborhoods in the Berea community. Join the movement and #LoveUglyFood today!
Until next time, eat well (and ugly)!
Jessa Turner – Manager