We often get questions about what would otherwise happen to imperfect produce if we weren’t in the picture. We could talk about the 20 billion pounds of food that go to waste on farms each year or data around the amount we recover and donate, but we decided it would be best to explain our mission through this story.
Last week, we received a call from Lakeside Organics, a family-owned and operated business out of Watsonville, California. They had a field full of rutabagas that were going to be tilled back into the field — their grocery partners wouldn’t accept them due to their unusual shapes and sizes.
It wasn’t just the food that would be wasted. The time, labor, water, fertilizer, and other precious resources that went into growing these rutabagas would be tilled back into the field along with them. Could Imperfect pay Lakeside to harvest this rutabaga and offer it to our customers?
We purchased every last rutabaga they could harvest, product that would have otherwise been left in the field at a cost to the environment and the farmer, and shipped them to our San Francisco and Los Angeles customers.
And while there are times when the produce in your box may have had a second life — perhaps as animal feed, compost, or on the processing market — we know that our community is providing a solution that’s much better for the environment than animal feed or compost, and helps hardworking farmers get a fair price for their produce. Beyond being ugly, like these rutabagas, produce goes to waste for so many solvable reasons:
Surplus in the market: for example, a flood in the watermelon market during peak season means supply is greater than demand
Food trends: particular items are popular during a specific time of year, such as pumpkins and squash during the fall holidays, but are still produced year-round and need a home
Grocery store contracts: contracts between retailers and growers are sometimes cancelled, leaving farmers with an abundance of produce
Certification issues: for example, an organic shipper was not able to sell limes due to the farm falling behind on organic certifications, so the fruit was just left on the trees when it could’ve been harvested and sold as conventionally grown
We will continue to change the outcomes of these stories for the better, all while creating some of the best living wage jobs in food and providing almost 10,000 families, including many living in food deserts, access healthy food at radically affordable prices with our reduced-cost box program. The work we do is a critical step in improving our food system. It’s not the only solution, but we are shaking things up and transforming things for the better. Food waste is the third highest leverage action the planet can take right now to fend off global warming and we’re going to keep passionately pursuing our vision of a world without waste.
Thanks for being part of our mission to fight food waste and build a better food system for everyone,
CEO and Co-founder