I remember. The times when I lured in front of the fruits & veggies section at the supermarket, carefully analyzing the produce to make sure I picked the shiniest apple and the most spherical orange. I was disgusted by the weird looking ones, the tomatoes with curves that reminded me of tumours or the carrots with two heads. They seemed to have a chemical deformation but really, it was the complete opposite. In 8th grade, I was about to take a bite of a beautiful apple when my friend made a comment: “Omg, you’re apple is just perfect!”. I suddenly stopped my motion, put down the apple on my desk, looked up and said: “that’s because of all the pesticides they sprayed on it!”.
Why haven’t I thought of this before? How was it possible that after being exposed to all of nature’s deeds, could this apple still be impeccable? No bumps, no holes, no scratches, no bruises… it just didn’t make sense. Nature is far from perfect, but our society decided that even food needed beauty norms. So we had to find ways, environmentally hurtful ways, of meeting them. With big franchises like Loblaws and Walmart stepping over small farms and increasing the distance between the buyers and the producers, people are feeling more disconnected than ever with their food. It used to be that most families had their own farm and garden. From planting the first seed to harvesting the final product, they were implicated at every level of the food production. That means that no matter the shape and size of the apple, each and every one was cherished because they were literally the fruits of the farmer’s labor. Now, in an age of “innovation”, we often only need to lift a finger to make food appear in our kitchen. Don’t have time to drive to the supermarket? You can order your grocery online and have it delivered right at your front door!
Because most of us don’t worry about how and where the produce is being grown, looks and taste are now the two main factors influencing the buyer’s decision. If it doesn’t look good, fruits and veggies are basically considered garbage. “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. It’s a cheesy saying but one of my personal favorites. Consumers all around the world are asking the wrong questions: does it has bruises? Is it big enough? Does it look normal? … How is this kind of information helping families put better food on their tables!? We need to look past beyond the cover, open the book and read the story! Who grew it? Where? At what environmental and social cost? What kind of chemicals could be inside its flesh?
Consumers throw out a lot of unappealing products but it’s the producers and grocery store that waste the most. “More than 20 percent of the produce grown for human consumption is rejected by grocery stores and goes uneaten because of its appearance”. The environmental impacts of food waste is huge: the decomposition of organic waste produces methane (prevents the heat from escaping into space = global warming!) and large amounts of water, fertilizers, pesticides and energy was used to grow this food. However, another aspect of food waste is even more ethically wrong: how can we partake in this kind of activity when we know that millions of people are starving every day?
Thankfully, people around the world are working hard to stop food waste:
- The California-based start-up Imperfect is fighting for the rights of fruits and veggies to be freed of discrimination regarding their looks.
- France just passed a law “forcing grocery stores to give away — rather than throw away — their unsold food”. They must give it to charities or for animal feed, if not, they must pay a fine or spend 2 years in prison. “The law will also introduce an education programme about food waste in schools and businesses”. Canada, you have some work to do!