Why You’re Shopping for Produce Wrong

With food waste numbers at an all-time high, it’s time to end body-shaming for produce.

I absolutely love old bookstores. I’m immediately drawn to tattered books with rough edges and crumbling spines—to me, this wear and tear indicates that the book has been used and loved, and that it’s a precious item I’m lucky to have. For some reason, my “diamond in the rough” attitude rarely transcends to the farmer’s market or grocery store. When I’m shopping for produce, I want the shiniest apple without even the smallest scuff; the cantaloupe that just feels right (whatever right is supposed to feel like), that fits perfectly into my hands.

And I’m not alone. We’ve been taught that fruits and vegetables are supposed to be beautiful, to make our bodies healthier—all part of one big beautiful process. But it’s 2015. It’s time to stop body-shaming produce.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that food waste is now a $2.6 trillion issue, which goes far beyond a discolored head of broccoli. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as reported by Yahoo! Health, Americans waste 31 percent (or 133 billion pounds) of the nation’s food supply every year. Barrels and palettes of unappealing produce left to rot outside grocery stores and markets are a significant contributing factor to this.

In an effort to help combat this waste, in 2014 French ad agency Marcel Worldwide created its “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign. The campaign encouraged grocery shoppers to buy misshapen produce items that are usually skipped over by offering a discount.

In France, 40 percent of the country’s food waste came directly from ugly fruits and vegetables, according to The New York Times. If people were only educated about misshapen fruit, and had monetary incentive to buy it, Marcel Worldwide figured there was serious potential for food waste numbers to decline dramatically.

The innovative ad campaign takes a simplistic approach by reminding us that:

  • A Hideous Orange Makes Beautiful Juice
  • The Ugly Carrot: In a Soup Who Cares?,
  • The Failed Lemon—From the Creator of the Lemon
  • The Ridiculous Potato—Elected Miss Mashed Potato 2014
  • The Disfigured Eggplant—So Cheap it Could be Even More Disfigured

It all makes good sense. When juice is made, you can’t see what the orange once looked like.

It’s the color and brightness of the produce that denotes the amount of nutrients, not the shape. A brightly misshapen lemon? Go for it. A dingy and pale yellow lemon? Maybe not. These are lessons worth remembering when walking down the produce aisle.

Next time you’re grocery shopping, make like you’re in a bookstore and don’t judge that banana by its shape. Do your research as to how each piece of produce you buy is supposed to look or feel and when in doubt, ask someone who works in produce.

Combatting food waste isn’t just for when you’re out and about, either: the USDA reports that roughly 20 percent of food waste is generated at home.

Here is an easy way to reduce your food waste at home in three steps:

  1. Separate your food waste into a separate container to help keep track of it
  2. Write it down (i.e. 2 bananas, ½ carton of milk)
  3. Identify the reasons—once you know why you are throwing it out, you can help the process (i.e. did the produce go bad, did you buy too much, etc.)

Check out this website for more information about reducing food waste.

Photo courtesy of Dan Slee



Jayme Lamm is a sports + travel + fitness writer based in Houston, TX. She lives for telling fun and unique stories and when it comes to sports and athletes is always on the hunt for compelling human interest stories. Her work has appeared in ESPN, CBS, Women’s Health, and many others and she also founded the award-winning sports column The Blonde Side. Follow her many adventures on Twitter and Instagram @JaymeLamm.