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“I’m an environmental journalist, not an environmentalist.” I’ve said this countless times over the course of my career, usually to make a distinction between myself and the people I write about.But last year, while reporting on a growing number of climate crises, I realized I could no longer pretend that I was just a journalist. I wanted to do my part in the fight against food waste.In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Frischmann wrote that reducing food waste will ultimately require American consumers to “enow delivers boxes in six cities on the East Coast, and CEO Evan Lutz says he plans to expand the business “to 30 more cities over the next four years.” Imperfect Produce—founded in 2015 by one of Lutz’s original business partners, Ben Simon—serves 10 West Coast cities, as well as Baltimore and Washington, D. Simon envisions Imperfect delivering in company, they argued, is not in the business of food waste so much food surplus: It buys excess products that farmers can’t sell to supermarkets, but could sell to restaurants, canned and processed food companies, or, as a last resort, donate to food banks.
They were piling up in my mailroom and appearing on my neighbors’ doorsteps.
Hungry Harvest ads started appearing in my Instagram and Facebook feeds, and ads for a competing food waste delivery company, Imperfect Produce, even popped up while I was swiping on Tinder. Every year, 30 million acres of cropland, 4.2 trillion gallons of water, and nearly two billion pounds of fertilizer are used to grow food that’s never eaten, In fact, reducing food waste is “one of the most important things we can do to reverse global warming,” according to Chad Frischmann, policy director of the climate solutions group Project Drawdown.
It’s to create a system where excess food isn’t produced in the first place.
How can venture capital-backed companies contribute to that goal when they profit from industrial agriculture’s overproduction?
“It’s based on trust between us and the supplier,” he said.
For example, Rose said, he recently sent 300 pounds of watermelon radishes to a big grocery store, only to have it sent back because of decay that happened in-transit.When we spoke in December, he said the loss was “probably closer to 50 or 60 percent.” He can’t prove the decline is because people decided to switch to Imperfect Produce.But CSAs in other cities where Imperfect is thriving are reporting Cadji also believes Imperfect Produce is doing “sneaky little things to undercut CSAs”—like, for example, advertising itself as a “CSA Style Box.” He said this is misleading, and has the potential to lure away potential CSA customers who believe they’re signing up for something similar.If I received a Hungry Harvest box every other week, I reasoned, I’d be saving 260 pounds of fruits and vegetables from being wasted every year.And even if I wound up throwing away half of my box, it would still be a net environmental benefit because the produce would have been thrown away otherwise—or so I thought.In most cases, Rose said, “We donated it to food banks.” New Sprout even received an award from one local food bank in 2012 for donating 85,000 pounds of produce, he said.“We still donate a lot to food banks—quite a lot,” Rose said.Some research suggests about half of all produce grown in the country goes to waste.It’s an economic, environmental, and moral offense.Some people might not trust a for-profit, venture capital–backed company to act with the planet’s best intentions in mind, he said, but they should trust the results: In the last three years, Imperfect Produce claims to have saved 30 million pounds of food and 900 million gallons of water from being wasted.Simon thinks We are saving good produce from rotting on fields, paying hard working farmers a fair price for it, and helping middle and working class people save money on healthy produce,” he wrote.