In 2010 around 131 billion pounds of food was wasted in the United States. Luckily, there's a program in Cleveland doing something about it
According to the USDA, in 2010 approximately 131 billion pounds of food was wasted and sent to landfills. Much of that waste is produce, which is sometimes thrown away simply because it does not look perfect. Yellow bell peppers with streaks of green, misshapen potatoes, dimpled honeydew melons, scratched oranges and squash – all are still fresh and delicious, but often are discarded for cosmetic reasons. Luckily, there is a program working to reduce that waste! Perfectly Imperfect Produce is the creation of Forest City Weingart Produce Co. with a vision to bridge the gap between food waste and families in need in the Cleveland area.
The Forest City Weingart Produce Co. is a wholesale produce company in Cleveland that sells produce from around the world to restaurants and grocery stores. Some fruits and vegetables are rejected by some customers because they do not look flawless when they come off the trucks. Perfectly Imperfect Produce is a program that was started in May to give families in need access to cheap fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables that have been rejected by restaurants and grocery stores for cosmetic reasons are brought back to the warehouse and packed into boxes that can benefit families in need in the Cleveland area. A healthy recipe is also offered in every box of fresh, delicious produce. Boxes of produce are offered in either small (18-20 pieces of produce) or large (30-40 pieces of produce) boxes and can be bought as a subscription. They can be either picked up from the warehouse, or they can be delivered. When asked why Perfectly Imperfect Produce feels strongly about reducing food waste and connecting citizens to nutritious food, Ashley Weingart, Forest City Weingart’s Director of Communications & Community Outreach, said that they see a massive amount of produce that comes through their hands, and while they have always donated to food banks and churches to help those in need, they wanted to do more. The Forest City Weingart Produce Co. is a fourth-generation family business, and she knows that while they are fortunate enough to have fresh food and the ability to lead a healthy lifestyle, it is not difficult to see the lack of access to fresh food in their neighborhood. They are motivated to help people get what they need for their own families.
Perfectly Imperfect Produce connected with the Healthy Cleveland Initiative when they were first launched. Healthy Cleveland has helped the program to form partnerships and connect with other health-related organizations trying to make a change in the area. Perfectly Imperfect Produce has been able to connect with a number of organizations and has been able to help in the community through collaborations. They have collaborated with the Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga through Healthy Cleveland, working to help the food bank and to help with education. Their greatest example of collaboration thus far, however, has been with the Diabetes Partnership at the ciCLEvia event on October 8th 2016. Working with the Diabetes Partnership, Perfectly Imperfect was able to give demonstrations of healthy recipes, provide samples and recipes, hold giveaways of fresh fruits and vegetables, handed out coupons for discounts on boxes, and interact with the people in the community who could use better access to fresh food and resources. They also provided water flavored with mint, lemon, and cucumber, which the children in the community found exciting. Even the small changes like helping kids switch from pop to water are enough to really make an impact in the community, according to Ashley.
There are many more developments in store for Perfectly Imperfect in terms of collaboration. They are optimistic about opportunities to work with places like the Department of Aging at the ciCLEvia event and others in the near future. They are also working with local recreational and health centers, hoping to increase their distribution points in order to connect more people with fresh produce. Perfectly Imperfect is also discussing opportunities with Cleveland Roots about using their produce in the boxes as well.