The beautiful produce displays at your local grocery mask an ugly truth: tons of undersized and misshapen fruits and vegetables, thrown away instead of eaten. One Canadian grocery chain is working to change that problem.
Loblaws, Canada’s largest food retailer, recently announced the launch of a new retail campaign to combat food waste. Called no name Naturally Imperfect, the promotion publicizes Loblaws’s sale of misshapen, “ugly” produce at a discounted rate.
“We often focus too much on the look of produce rather than the taste,” said Loblaws senior vice president Ian Gordon via press release. The company hopes to incentivize the Naturally Imperfect line by offering a 30 percent discount on ugly apples and potatoes, with plans to expand to other produce varieties.
If successful, the program will reduce the US$27 billion worth of food Canadians waste each year. The program also promotes public health by making nutritious food more affordable; mitigates the devastating impact of food waste on the environment; and provides greater economic security for the farmers producing the food.
Globally, over 1 billion tons of food goes to waste each year—a total annual economic impact of $750 billion. The food itself is not the only thing discarded; valuable natural resources go into producing the food, including water. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that the amount of water used to produce eventually-wasted food is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River. Methane produced by food waste decomposition accounts for 7 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
“We all—farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers—must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and reuse or recycle it when we can’t,” said Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) director-general José Graziano da Silva.
According to the FAO, the food wasted each year in the world’s most developed countries could feed the 870 million hungry people in the world. According to The New York Times, in the United States alone 60 million tons of food goes uneaten; nearly 40 percent of this waste comes from retailers and households.
With more than 2,300 locations, Loblaws is creating a market for underappreciated fruits and vegetables as well as a scalable model for reducing food waste. If all food retailers follow Loblaws’s example, food waste would significantly decline. On an individual level, grocery shopping more conservatively and composting kitchen scraps make a real difference. The U.N. estimates that home composting has the potential to divert over 300 pounds of food waste per household per year. These efforts, from corporate to household, are a vital step toward creating a sustainable food system and a healthy planet.