Petition Pressures Walmart to Sell Ugly Fruits and Vegetables

© Clare Barboza, "Apples of Uncommon Character"

By Gillie Houston Posted July 01, 2016

"If they start selling ugly fruits and vegetables, everyone can."

The same week that Walmart announced a change to its labeling system to cut back on food waste, one anti-waste crusader is pressuring the retail giant to do more to fight back against the growing problem. Jordan Figueiredo, a municipal recycling expert from California, has begun a grassroots online campaign to convince Walmart to sell the "ugly" fruits and vegetables that would normally be discarded by supermarkets and other food distributors.

Though food waste has become a major focus for the public and politicians alike recently, Figueiredo has been advocating against food waste for much of the last decade. However it was only a couple years ago, when Figueiredo noticed the "ugly" produce trend popping up online, that he realized this misshapen and often uneaten produce could be the key to fighting waste. "This issue is so huge, and it doesn't require a complex solution," Figueiredo tells The Huffington Post. "Once you tell people there's so much good produce going to waste, people are on board."

Figueiredo has turned his focus to the massive company due to its size and commercial influence. "Walmart has so many stores—if they start selling ugly fruits and vegetables, everyone can." While some grocery stores have already begun programs to introduce ugly produce to their shelves—including Whole Foods—Walmart, with its $167 billon a year food business, would be a whole other animal.

In order to get his point heard to the blue vest-wearing higher-ups, Figueiredo created a Change.org petition along with Stefanie Sacks, nutritionist and author of "What the Fork Are You Eating?" So far, it's been signed by nearly 100,000 people. The petition requests that Walmart begins to use its 4,200 U.S. stores to help make strides towards saving more food while simultaneously feeding the one out of six Americans who are food insecure. "It is simply irresponsible to encourage waste of good, healthy, and perfectly edible food," he writes. Figueiredo calls for the chain to "add the 'uglies' to their store aisles so you can save money, fight hunger, and help the environment all in one."

Though Sacks says Walmart has so far been "completely unresponsive," to their request, the chain has been making strides towards a more waste-free future. In addition to requiring more consistent language on their expiration date labels, the company claims to have reduced food- and non-food waste by 82 percent in the recent years. Additionally, Walmart already sells ugly fruits and vegetables at a 30 percent reduced price their United Kingdom-based chain, Asda, but has yet to implement the program in their U.S. locations.

"We're conscious of the entire fresh food supply chain and believe in addressing food waste at every step, that includes everything from buying the farmers' whole yield to finding alternate uses for wonky fruits and vegetables," says Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales. Figueirdo is hoping his initiative will be the next step in the company's continued efforts.

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