Helping the planet by loving ugly vegetables
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Nov 30, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Helping the planet by loving ugly vegetables

It’s an unlikely Internet hit — a photo feed of misshapen fruit and veg — but Jordan Figueiredo hopes it wakes us up to waste

OurWindsor.Ca

There is more to deformed produce than ridicule and contempt — just ask Jordan Figueiredo.

When not at his day job as a solid waste specialist for the Castro Valley Sanitary District in California’s Bay area, Figueiredo runs the immensely successful @UglyFruitAndVeg campaign, one of the Internet’s leading vehicles in the fight against food waste. It isn’t a frivolous or quirky endeavour: in the United States, 26 per cent of produce is discarded before it gets to the grocery store. A lot is tossed out because it isn’t the right size, shape or colour.

That’s where Figueiredo comes in. He has used Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to spread awareness about produce that is rejected by large grocers because it’s not perfect. He also writes articles and gives talks.

It is shocking to think that a quarter of produce never makes it to the stores, that it gets wasted.

It is wasted is at harvest, post-harvest, selecting what is good. It is grocers and marketing associations that say produce has to be a certain size and way to meet cosmetic standards. It’s easier for them (grocers) to stack, the produce looks perfect.

Size is the biggest reason (for discarding), not blemishes. It is really bizarre how it is.

I’ve never understood why produce has to look good.

People believe that ugly produce isn’t perfect, that there is something bad about it. I was like that, too. I think we have been conditioned that way — all we ever saw was perfect-looking produce, same-shape apples, size and colour. Even at farmers’ markets, I found that produce that wasn’t perfect gets turned over. It is basically a developed-world problem.

The campaign has a massive following on social media. How did you make — as some would say — ugly produce look so pretty and palatable?

People have been drawn in because these images are quirky and funny. I used to post just what I saw. I get photos from all over the world now. It started slow — I would just post pictures but once I started writing funny captions that is when it started to take off. One time, Jamie Oliver (the British celebrity chef) retweeted four tweets and my phone didn’t stop buzzing!

What do you want the campaign to achieve?

It’s really simple: all stores should sell all produce. There is nothing wrong with deformed fruits and vegetables. Also, it is a burden for farmers. For the most part, farmers barely make a living in the U.S. and in Canada. If their produce isn’t accepted by grocers, they have to throw it away and they lose money. Big grocers can sell all this produce, with incentives or without. Changing the way they do business is an uphill climb.

Is there one vegetable or fruit that tends to be more imperfect or quirky than others?

Carrots are funny. I could post carrot pictures every single day. The shapes can be amazing: a carrot can look like a hand with five fingers, a carrot can be intertwined with another to make it look like someone making love. I can’t even post some of them because they are so graphic.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Toronto Star

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