October 15, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Olivia Hahnemann-Gilbert | Photo by Eric Ingram
In the United States, almost 40% of all food is wasted; this means that about 108 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year. Why does this happen?
There are many contributing factors to this atrocity. At the consumer level, there are common wasteful tendencies which many of us may relate to — often, people do not successfully plan their meals and end up throwing away extra food. The occasional disposing of bad spinach may seem like no big deal, but on a large scale, the amount of food wasted by individuals adds up.
Similar wasteful behavior occurs in the food service industry; restaurants prefer an abundance of food over a lack of food, and thus too much food is often ordered and prepared. Excess food is then nonchalantly tossed into the trash.
There are a vast array of other food production and consumption processes leading to large amounts of wasted food. However, one of the biggest contributors to food waste happens when food is sent to grocery stores.
Most American grocery store chains hold incredibly stringent and unrealistic standards for foods they sell. Each item has to be a specific size, color, and texture. If it does not meet these requirements, it will likely be thrown out — even if the food is completely edible.
Thus, a perfectly tasty apple that is slightly too small or lumpy will likely be deemed unfit to sell in stores and will be banished to the landfills.
But hey, out of sight, out of mind, right?
Wrong. Due to lack of maintenance and excessive amounts of food, landfills release great amounts of methane into the atmosphere, a potent greenhouse gas, which plays a significant role in perpetuating climate change. Given the obscene degree of yearly food waste in the United States, landfills have huge consequences for the environment.
On top of this, discarded food also wastes land, money, and large amounts of freshwater. Not to mention, millions of people are undernourished, with numbers rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The negative impacts of food waste are innumerable. Luckily, there are ways to combat this issue. Specifically, several companies have emerged to tackle the problem of grocery stores rejecting “ugly” foods.
These companies offer less aesthetically-pleasing foods a second chance. Imperfect Foods is a prime example; this company collaborates with grocery stores, inheriting and selling the “ugly” foods which otherwise would have been sent to rot in landfills. They sell foods like lumpy apples, small peppers, and yellowish cauliflower, all of which are beautiful on the inside.
Imperfect Foods offers a way for people to help save foods from being wasted.
Additionally, shopping is made quite convenient by Imperfect Foods, based entirely online with food delivered directly to customers, including those in Colorado Springs. Many foods are discounted, which makes for a slightly cheaper grocery trip relative to the expenses of the average health foods diet.
Imperfect Foods even has customers amongst Colorado College students, like Amanda Bradley ’23.
“It’s really all different: I got bell peppers that were a little bit too small, excess mushrooms and tomatoes which couldn’t be sold in time, and some squash with a little bruising,” Bradley said.
Some people might worry that ordering foods that are smaller than normal would not be filling enough. However, Imperfect Foods has ways of making up for this.
“The friend who introduced me to Imperfect Foods would get tiny little avocados, but if she ordered two, they would send her four because they were so small,” Bradley said. “They understand and make up for the actual amount that people want to order.”
Bradley explained the process — after creating an account online, Imperfect Foods designates each person a shopping timeline as well as a delivery date. Bradley emphasized the convenience of Imperfect Foods, describing features such as banning or permanently adding food items to one’s cart, which will either automatically add an item or leave one off of your cart each time you order.
Some of the items on Bradley’s list weren’t necessarily “imperfect.” Some items were just overstocked at grocery stores and would have otherwise been thrown away, she said. Sometimes, items not from the stores are also included in some shopping lists.
“For example, the tofu that I got from them isn’t an ‘ugly’ food but it’s from a sustainable family-run business — and I got it for a dollar off,” Bradley said.
When asked about the discount, Bradley cautioned against shopping at Imperfect Foods solely for saving money. She emphasized that while items at Imperfect Foods may be cheaper in comparison to an all-organic or Whole Foods diet, it can still be more expensive than shopping conventionally.
Still, Bradley recommends Imperfect Foods for CC students.
“It feels good knowing that I’m going to eat food that would have otherwise been thrown in the trash,” she said. “It’s also really easy; especially for those who don’t have a car.”