Would you eat a tomato that has bug bites on it? Or a zucchini that is so large that it almost looks like a donut?
When most people go to the local supermarket, they typically see perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables. We always try to purchase the most flawless produce, and even a small blemish or an unusual shape on an item makes it seem like its quality is lower than the the rest.
What many of us don’t realize is our perceptions of what the ideal produce looks like are shaped by the media and government regulations that dictate what kind of fruits and vegetables can be sold at supermarkets. These regulations are largely based on shape and color, and not necessarily on taste or quality.
As a result, millions of tons of food go to waste every year. According to recent studies by the Dutch and Swedish governments, the European Union alone wastes at least 89 million tons of produce a year.
The study shows that the Union’s strict regulations need to be changed in order to reduce food waste. That’s where Isabel Soares of Portugal comes in.
The 31-year-old decided to take matters into her own hands when she started an organization called Fruta Fea, or “Ugly Fruit.” She and a handful of volunteers started purchasing unwanted produce from retailers and farmers, and resold them for a fraction of the original price.
“The E.U. norms are based on the mistaken idea that quality is about appearance,” said Soares. “It’s of course easier to measure the exterior aspect rather than interior features like sugar levels, but that is the wrong way to determine quality.”
According to her, about a third of Portugal’s fruits and vegetables go to waste each year.
At the beginning, Soares and her team struggled to convince farmers to sell them their produce, but ever since her campaign started in November 2013, she has managed to sign up more than 1,000 customers on a waiting list and sell more than 21 tons of food.
Fruta Fea has been receiving extremely positive feedback, and there are plans to expand this initiative.
The campaign is already underway in France, and there are plans to present the idea at the 2015 Expo in Milan.
Watch the video above from France explaining the incredible Ugly Fruit movement.