Allison Aubrey (@AubreyNPRFood) writes for NPR’s The Salt. She’s been working on an absolutely terrific series that is tackling the serious topic of food waste. (We wrote about her first piece – Landfill of Lettuce – which was produced in collaboration with PBS’s NewsHour).

Food is wasted at every stage in the supply chain: in the field, during transportation, processing and once it gets into the hands of consumers. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calculates “that depending on the crop, anywhere from 1 to 30 percent of food grown by farmers doesn’t get to the grocery store.”

A big part of the problem with food waste lies with consumers. Especially when it comes to produce. We expect – we demand – perfection. But there are variations in appearance that don’t affect the taste or nutritional value of produce. It’s a matter of re-educating ourselves. The cauliflower that’s slightly yellowed? That’s from the sun: it’s still as flavorful and nutritious as the pristine white head of cauliflower in the produce section at the store.


“The story is similar with misshapen crowns of broccoli and peaches that aren’t perfectly shaped or colored. Harold McLarty of HMC Farms in Kingsburg, Calif., says 35 percent of his crop never makes it to market. Much of his surplus goes to cattle feed.”


And now, Raley’s, a major grocery chain with more than 100 stores in California and Nevada, is tackling the food waste problem by trying to sell consumers on the idea of “less-than-perfect” fruits and vegetables: it will begin selling those in July. Raley’s is working with an enterprise company called Imperfect Produce. In partnership, they will launch a “pilot” program, “Real Good” produce. They’ll test consumer response in ten stores in Northern California.

Aubrey has produced a couple of really substantial pieces on this vital topic – food waste – and you’ll want to read both and catch the PBS NewsHour episode.

There’s another grocer that’s tackling food waste, and although it’s a small effort, we think it’s a notable model. The new grocery store concept, The Daily Table, is drawing a great deal of media attention. The innovative market is a non-profit enterprise. And it plans to provide healthy food at low-cost in a Boston neighborhood with traditionally poor food access. Its shelves are full of surplus and aging food…and the foods being sold are healthy. The food would otherwise have been discarded. The store is the brainchild of Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s. He sees Daily Table as “a nonprofit health-care initiative masquerading as a retail grocery store.” It’s a wonderful concept. It should be replicated. Mary Beth Albright (@MaryBeth) interviewed Doug Rauch for National Geographic’s The Plate, and we also think it’s a must read.



Related Links:

Landfill of lettuce

What a World War 1 poster can teach us about food waste

Food waste is a serious economic and environmental issue