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Preserve Farmers Market Seconds

Reduce food waste by purchasing “ugly” produce from farmers and turning it into canned creations you’ll enjoy all year.

| March/April 2019

The math is astonishing: When it comes to the simple arithmetic of hunger versus domestic food production, hunger shouldn’t exist in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans waste up to 40 percent of the food they produce every year. And yet, this same agency tells us that in 2016 more than 41 million Americans were food insecure, 13 million of whom were children. This egregious imbalance isn’t limited to the U.S. Globally, we produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, and yet close to 1 billion go without. While we’re not want for enough food in total, production and distribution will need to change dramatically before these numbers can balance out.

Photo by Getty Images/vm

There’s waste at each level of food production: on farms, in supermarkets, in restaurants, and in our homes. Each of these has its own criteria for rejecting or wasting food. But the underlying reasons for the waste are primarily based on aesthetics; a lot of produce is tossed aside not because it is inedible, but because it doesn’t fit the rigid cultural criteria for beauty.

The standard for food perfection has become so distorted that it has little to do with the healthful value of the fruit. Imperfections in the produce world can range from knobby-kneed carrots to bruised apples and scarred peaches. Bruises, discoloration, softness, and holes are all offenses that can land a perfectly healthful and nutritious vegetable in the garbage. Americans have made their obsession with the aesthetic beauty of food a national pastime. The phenomena of photographing food for Instagram has done little to temper this obsession, with hashtags like #foodporn and its 160 million (and counting) associated photos of purported food perfection.

Photo by Adobe Stock/farbled_01

Fortunately, there’s an insistent and growing tide against the pursuit of food perfection. “Ugly food,” as it’s known, has become trendy and countercultural. And more importantly, there are now many proactive organizations in the U.S. working to divert ugly food from waste streams. The new movement has an old name: gleaning.

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