‘Ugly’ fruits and veggies find a home through subscription service

CHICAGO -- A California company is hoping to get Chicagoans to rethink the way they buy produce.

The company is called Imperfect Produce, and its goal is to reduce food waste in America. They say it’s a bigger problem than most people know--and that’s the ugly truth.

About 20 percent of fruits and vegetables in America go to waste because they are misshapen, oversized or irregularly shaped.

At Imperfect Produce, these oddities are not only being embraced but are being bought and sold, and as of this week, they are delivered straight to your home in Chicago.

“Imperfect Produce delivers boxes of ugly fruits and vegetables for 30 to 50 percent cheaper than grocery store prices,” said co-founder Ben Simon.

For two years, Simon has been worked with farmers to reduce food waste at the farm level by recovering misfit fruits and vegetables so consumers in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles can eat them. To date, the company has already salvaged 8 million pounds of substandard lettuce, lemons, leeks and so much more.

Never rotten. Never bruised. Just, well, ugly.

In  a refrigerated warehouse near O’Hare, workers fill online orders and then pack up the goods for local delivery.  And whenever possible, Imperfect Produce buys from local farms in the area.

Low-income city dwellers struggling with food deserts like getting cheaper produce driven right to their door. And most everybody else likes doing something good for the planet and its people.  It is especially important when you consider one in six people in the U.S.  go hungry every single day.

“Hunger is not a food shortage problem, it’s a food distribution problem,” Simon said. “Basically a food waste problem.”

Delivery is about $5 an order. Imperfect Produce also sets up a recurring weekly order for customers. You have to opt out of a delivery if you don’t want on, rather than opt in every week.

The company’s founder says 40 percent of produce grown never makes it off the farm because it doesn’t meet grocery store standards. He wants to change that and the attitudes of people everywhere about embracing differences and accepting things just the way they are.

And remembering that beauty is only skin deep.

Imperfect Produce launched Monday with limited deliveries. The company plans to deliver to the entire Chicago metro area by the end of the month.

They are also delivering some non-produce items like rejected coffee beans and olive oils.

More information is available at www.imperfectproduce.com.