One man’s shrink is another man’s dinner?

09/27/2013 09:18:00 AM
Pamela Riemenschneider

Pamela Riemenschneider, Retail EditorPamela Riemenschneider, Retail EditorHaving watched produce clerks cull displays on many occasions, I’ve seen firsthand how much edible — but not saleable — produce goes to waste from the average grocery store.

The latest estimates say we waste as much as 40% of our food.

While many retailers are great at bagging up and marking down cosmetically imperfect produce for quick sale, not all of it finds a home and not every retailer’s policy allows for it.

I’ve seen mobs of customers surrounding the markdowns at the Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley, Calif.

Their thrifty, produce-savvy shoppers flock to the selection of high-quality fruits and vegetables slightly past their prime, with the glee of a bargain hunter at Best Buy on Black Friday.

Not much goes to waste around there. One shopper even told me the banged-up looking mushrooms are more flavorful than the pretty ones on display.

Again, that’s the mark of a savvy mushroom consumer.

But then I think of the time I watched a clerk at Target in North Austin, Texas, roll around what looked like a miniature Dumpster and throw away half a wet rack of produce that I’d seen a customer shop just minutes before.

Would that customer be dismayed to learn the shrink-wrapped, dated bell pepper she just picked up was scheduled for the garbage?

I suspect the average shopper wouldn’t be thrilled to learn she just bought something that could have been garbage a few minutes later.

So, when I heard about former Trader Joe’s president Doug Rauch planning to glean expired or nearly expired food from retailers to repurpose into inexpensive meals, I wondered how it’s all going to work out.

I’ve been to see hunger relief organizations, like the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the Houston Food Bank, who have pretty elaborate systems set up with local produce distributors and retailers to receive distressed or unsold produce, glean it and get it out to those in need.

This requires a quick turnaround, adequate facilities and an army of volunteers.

Rauch’s plan includes picking up produce and other foods from retailers and cooking meals to turn around and distribute through a retail outlet called the Daily Table. It’s unclear what, if any, the charge will be for meals.  

“We’re talking about taking and recovering food,” Rauch told National Public Radio.


Prev 1 2 Next All


Comments (2) Leave a comment 

Name
e-Mail (required)
Location

Comment:

characters left

Mike    
Florida  |  September, 30, 2013 at 03:19 PM

If you are dismayed over the grocery stores throwing away produce, you should see what the growers are forced to throw away because it is not perfect looking, it is bent or misshapen. All perfectly good. It is a shame produce buyers are so particular when the shoppers and end users chop it up into pieces that don't care what it looked like originally.

Maria    
Petoskey, Mi  |  October, 03, 2013 at 04:28 PM

Unfortunately the consumer is the produce buyers boss. If there are two red peppers and one is a bit wrinkled, most consumers would pick the one without wrinkles or imperfections from the farm. It is a shame that our systems do not glean fields to give the imperfect fruits and vegetables out instead of food stamps. Instead allow folks to purchase sodas, chips and poor quality processed foods.

Feedback Form
Leads to Insight