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In produce, ugliness is only skin deep

Approximately 26 percent of all fruits and vegetables are thrown away before they even reach grocery stores in the United States, leading to billions of pounds of waste each year. Perfectly edible, wonderfully nutritious apples, peaches, carrots and onions rot in our landfills — in a country where 1 in 6 people are considered food insecure and where more than 80 percent of us are not eating enough produce. Fully 25 percent of fresh water goes to food we don't eat.

Why does this happen? Aesthetic pickiness deserves much of the blame. Large grocery stores systematically reject fruits and vegetables at the farm and packinghouse because of imperfections in size, shape and color. They know that shoppers tend to "eat with their eyes."

To draw attention to this problem, the French supermarket chain Intermarche teamed up with an advertising agency to launch the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables Campaign. Inglorious put a new spin on "ugly" produce by distributing fun, lovable and even bizarrely sexy photos of fruits and vegetables.

Recently, I took a page from the French, starting an anti-waste/ugly produce social media campaign for an American audience. Fruit and vegetables grow in amazing shapes: peaches that look like birds, plums that look like hearts and, everyone's favorite, carrots that look like they're auditioning for an X-rated movie.

The best thing about ugly produce? The cost. Because farmers have such a hard time getting grocers to purchase their not quite "perfect" produce, they sell "ugly" produce for 30 percent to 50 percent off. So buy uglies wherever you can. If we can stop wasting this delicious food, the result will be beautiful.

— Jordan Figueiredo runs the @UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign, an anti-waste/ugly produce social media campaign for an American audience. Figueiredo wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

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