‘Ugly’ can be beautiful (& healthy)

BERKELEY, Calif. ― Imperfect Produce set up shop at the Berkeley Kite Festival over the weekend to show how “ugly” crops — bought directly from farms and delivered to customers in personal boxes for a cheaper price than many grocery stores — can be a great find. Many of these “ugly” crops don’t meet grocery store standards of perfection and are often thrown away, despite having the same quality and nutrition as regular produce.

Imperfect Produce’s stand offers passerbys the chance to sign up for customizable produce packages. Photo by Katie Liu.

The company sources its produce from California farmers based on seasonal availability. The crops are fresh and organic. A box of “ugly” produce costs up to 50 percent less than grocery-store prices. For example, a small box can cost between $11 and $15, while a large box can cost about $20, depending on the types of items that customers order.

Christopher Steinei, who was staffing Imperfect Produce’s booth at the festival on Sunday, said that people are drawn to Imperfect Produce because of both price and the good cause.

Their mission to reduce food waste is an important step to combatting climate change as well.

“For every pound of produce, it usually takes 55 gallons of water,” Steinei said. Wasted food also releases carbon dioxide, making it the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

So far, Imperfect Produce has been able to save 220 million gallons of water as well as 15 million pounds of carbon dioxide. It has saved and delivered 4.4 million pounds of produce to its customers, who in turn have collectively been able to save $2 million, according to the company.

Imperfect Produce comes in all shapes and sizes, some too small and others misshapen or twisting or bulging. And these raw fruits and vegetables demonstrate “the beauty in imperfection.”