In 2013, over 17 million American households were confronted with hunger and lack of nutritionally affordable food. The high cost of fruit and vegetables has put lower income Americans out of the market for these foods. Much of it is simply discarded by grocery stores for cosmetic reasons. Should grocery stores be allowed to continue this practice?

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Current prohibitively high costs of produce have canceled out access to its consumption by millions of low to moderate income Americans. Many simply cannot afford to purchase fruit or vegetables and have to rely on less nutritious and lower cost produce type products through canned goods and other sources. 

With large grocery store cosmetic standards standing in the way, a high percentage of produce is discarded before it reaches grocery store produce sections, which is not only a waste of good food, but a disservice to those who purchase a major portion of their groceries at stores that participate in this practice.  This system also deprives individuals of the opportunity to maintain a higher standard of health, which is affected by lack of the nutrients that produce provides.

Grocery stores should not be allowed to throw out fruit or vegetables simply for cosmetic reasons. If fruit or vegetables have not spoiled or suffered severe damage, they should still be considered edible and sold at significantly reduced costs or offered free to customers beyond a certain point of shelf life.  Grocers deem produce that is not of the right grade in relation to size, shape, or color as “ugly” and refuse to sell it as well as promptly dispose of it.  Produce experts explain that misshapen or smaller fruit and vegetable items are just as nutritious as the fancier versions, and oftentimes tastier.

In order to combat produce waste, stores like Walmart and Whole Foods have been challenged to start selling not quite perfect produce. Stores in Canada, Australia and Europe have mounted campaigns to sell less than perfect produce and have greatly benefited. One American store, Raley’s, has initiated a pilot program for selling “ugly” produce.

With significant grocer participation and commitment to the elimination of food and produce waste, particularly by large retailers, the benefits to both the grocers and Americans is limitless. Social, health and environmental needs can be met, and those Americans with limited resources and food deficiencies will be able to purchase healthful foods at discounted rates.  Stores need to realize they are acting irresponsibly with the waste of perfectly good, healthy and edible food.

Steps do need to be taken to reduce food waste and with consumer pressure on grocery and specialty food stores, hunger can be combated.  At the same time, food shoppers can save money, fight hunger and promote environmental balance with less waste.  The final result of produce waste will be eliminated or reduced as “ugly” fruit will wind up on dining tables everywhere rather than dumps, landfills and elsewhere.

Grocery stores  need to eliminate the practice of throwing away perfectly good food and the only way to halt the ingrained practice of “ugly” fruit throwaways is to continually campaign, petition and demand the elimination of food waste.  Food is a terrible thing to waste, especially fresh food.  Impoverished and hungry Americans deserve a chance to eat what food giants want to thrust aside.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Go to any landfill anywhere in the country, and a huge proportion of the detritus being offloaded by beeping behemoths is food.  Go to the dumpsters behind a grocery store or especially to a produce packaging plant, and the picture gets even more grim. Every day, tons of perfectly edible fruits and vegetables hit the landfill or the compost heap because they aren’t perfect.

Think about that for a moment.  When you go to a farmer’s market, do you find the “perfect” stuff you get in the grocery store? Is every tomato perfectly round and plump?  Is every carrot straight? Is every egg shiny and white?  Of course not.  But we go there because the produce and meat and eggs we buy there is fresher and tastes better.  Heirloom tomatoes, one of the hottest items at all my own local markets, are frequently so misshapen as to make me think they’re going to start cackling evilly and plotting my demise when I put them on the kitchen counter, but they sell like hotcakes.

So what’s behind this tremendous waste of food committed by the produce packers, farmers and grocery stores?  In Europe, where the “ugly” fruits and vegetables are sold at discounts or given to the needy, very little goes to waste.  Here in the U.S., where corporate agriculture largely runs the show, I believe it’s all about keeping prices inflated.  The multinational corporations that own everything from the eggs in the dairy case to the packaged salads in the produce department need certain price points to be met in order to hit their profit projections, and they refuse to be deterred from that mission.

So we’re left with hungry people, or those for whom the only food choices are unhealthy, prepackaged and highly processed, who are denied access to the food that the stores won’t even put on the shelves. We’re telling our people that corporate profits are more important than healthy diets, and that’s got to change.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-It has been said that the problem of hunger in America, as well as the rest of the world, is not one of lack of food. The real problem is a lack of infrastructure and distribution channels to get food to those who are in dire need. One of the great paradoxes is Americans being one of the most overweight people in the world on average, yet we have a serious hunger problem in many parts of the country.

The U.S. Government purchases surplus food from U.S. farmers in most years and offers that to those in need for free or at a steep discount. Countless tons of food are thrown into the garbage off dinner plates by diners and by restaurants and grocery stores because it is past its peak, or isn’t fresh, or isn’t cosmetically attractive enough to sell for full price. Fresh fruits and vegetables are particularly affected by this practice of only offering the best product to consumers, and it needs to stop.

It’s encouraging that many food shelves and hunger relief organizations are soliciting grocery stores and restaurants for “day old” food and giving it to the hungry, but more needs to be done. Poor consumers need to be educated to the fact that less than perfect produce may not be eye appealing but is no less nutritious and can be prepared in certain ways to offset its appearance. Bruised sections of fruits can be cut off, and the remaining fruit can be dried or canned. Sauces can be made from imperfect tomatoes. Other vegetables can be pureed or canned or dried too. Less than perfect specimens may not be appealing to eat raw by hand but could be sliced or chopped and used in soups or stews. Even mold can be trimmed from older produce with no negative health effects if done carefully enough.

Education is the key to informing consumers that all food need not be perfect to be safe. The best solution may be for grocery stores to begin featuring less-than-perfect, reduced-cost produce that is just as healthy as the so-called perfect produce, which will allow poorer consumers to eat healthier and cheaper than they otherwise might.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-In 2013, over 17 million American households were confronted with hunger and lack of nutritionally affordable food. The high cost of fruit and vegetables has put lower income Americans out of the market for these foods. Much of it is simply discarded by grocery stores for cosmetic reasons. Should grocery stores be allowed to continue this practice?

It’s often reiterated that there is great food shortage all over the world.  I believe that’s bull crap.  We have enough food to feed the entire world.  What we don’t have, however, is enough money to source food.  People, as a result, suffer greatly.  What I find even more distasteful is the fact that grocery stores and hotels discard food that could have otherwise been distributed to feed those who can’t afford nutritional food.

This practice by grocery stores is horrible, especially when they only discard foods for cosmetic reasons.  This practice only shows how selfish and stupid these grocery store owners are.  They rather throw away food, instead of preserving or giving it to those who can’t afford it.

In cases where grocery stores are considering throwing out food, an alternative is to put up displays that they have free vegetables available for those who need it.  People will follow through.

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