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This company is bringing ‘ugly’ produce to Brooklyn

October 22, 2019 Scott Enman
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From curvy cucumbers to blemished beets, Imperfect Foods has been giving new life to “ugly” produce for more than four years. Now, the company is bringing its operations to New York City.

The San Francisco-based business recovers less-than-perfect fruits, vegetables and more and delivers them to homes at a discounted rate. On average, goods are 30 percent cheaper than retail store prices.

How ugly is too ugly? Reilly Brock, the company’s content manager, told the Brooklyn Eagle that the food should be cosmetically quirky — but without any quality issues.

“While it’s totally fine for citrus to have scarred skin, or an apple to be a little small, or a bell pepper to be asymmetrical, we’ll never send out stuff that’s dented, bruised, moldy, old or squished,” he said.

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As part of its New York launch, the company is giving $5 from every signup in New York to Edible Schoolyard, a nonprofit that provides kids with an edible education that includes cooking and gardening classes.

Due to “arbitrary grocery standards and fickle contracts with suppliers,” an exorbitant amount of food goes unused every year, according to Imperfect Foods. In 2010, for example, America wasted roughly 133 billion pounds or $161 billion worth of food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported.

Imperfect Foods has recovered 80 million pounds of food since 2015, enabling farmers to make a living off produce that would normally have been left behind in the field or converted into animal feed.

Related: Downtown Brooklyn dumpster-diving tour shows the face of food waste

Even pantry items go to waste. Stores will often not stock foods with an expiration date a few months away. If a company goes through a rebrand, it will not sell previously packaged boxes with an older label. A package of tricolored quinoa can be taken off the shelves if its color is slightly off, despite it being perfectly edible.

Imperfect Foods sends boxes of produce, dairy and packaged goods to a customer’s door once a week or every other week, depending on the subscription. Prices range, overall, from $16 to $24 a week, depending on whether or not you want your produce organic.

The company delivers to more than 30 metro areas across the country and donates food to dozens of nonprofits and food banks. According to Brock, New York was a “no-brainer next step.”

“Since day one, people have been asking, ‘When are you coming to New York City?’ The demand is there, and the New York food scene and the sustainability scene is something that’s really important to be a part of.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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