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Sustainably Ugly: Ugly food may be the solution to under-balanced college diet

October 4, 2017

Growing up I’ve had a strange relationship with food due to my parents' choices in employment.

When I was younger and my mother was working at night, I was an Insta-kid--a kid raised on the culinary prowess of Chef Boyardee and Kid Cuisine. Sure, when my parents had time and energy they would cook for my sister and me, but more often than not they would slide a bowl of canned soup across the table. I knew that it wasn’t right at the time but still enjoyed it, my face lighting up whenever I saw a frozen pizza box.

But then my father opened his restaurant and my mother quit her job, and things just started to appear. Leafy greens and the sort sat on our counter instead of cans of mandarin oranges, my mother had time to teach me how to cook and it was more convenient to learn how to cook veggies.

You might be an insta-kid and struggle to think of the time and energy it takes to pick out fruits and vegetables in contrast to walking to the frozen food aisle. You also don’t want to spend 60 dollars on a week’s worth of produce that you don’t know how to cook or pick out.

Is it okay if an apple has a light yellow spot? A lot of my friends think not.

What if someone told you that food with greater cosmetic flaws than just a yellow spot is still edible, and that reports say that roughly 30% to 50% of all produce grown for public consumption is thrown away for cosmetic flaws.

Popping up in response to this epidemic are startups built with two missions: to reduce food waste and provide healthy options to areas declared food wastelands. Food wastelands are areas where the price of produce and other nutritious foods is outside the budget of the average citizen. This results in a higher tendency choose in prepared foods and high caloric treats.

The premise is this; if someone left a box of produce on your doorstep for under twenty dollars, would you use it even if it was cosmetically flawed? Keep in mind, you still pay for the service and there are people sorting through these fruits and vegetables to make sure that they are still edible.

If it costs under twenty dollars and contained enough vegetables for you to cook with for anywhere from one week to two weeks, would you be more likely to reach for that box more often than you do the lean cuisine boxes in the refrigerator?

These startups were created to allow low-income families who may not have reliable transportation, who face high produce charges at the market and who may not be well educated in the matter of choosing produce to have access to a healthier diet.

And things that target low income families typically go over well with college students.

I’ve watched many a college student devour an entire Meatzza on their own, but if these services expanded onto college campuses as well, would you make the choice?

I argue that you should make the choice and you should be proud of making the choice, as not only are you giving yourself cheap tools for a healthier lifestyle but also reducing the amount of food waste produced by the United States. A large portion of all trash in the United States that’s sitting in landfills right now is food waste. And yes, some of it is rotten and food waste does decompose.  But a large portion is edible and sitting in landfills, not composts where the soil could be recollected.

Having these services expand their delivery to more college towns could play an even larger part in the reduction of food waste and the healthy nourishment of a portion of the population.

Not only that, it would expand the bottom line of these organizations further, thus allowing for more connections with farmers and corporations that would aid in the reduction of food waste.

And reduce the sale of whole Meatzzas.