By Sylvia Crum
In July, Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) launched a ground-breaking pilot program to offer nutritious but cosmetically imperfect produce at approximately 30% discounts in four area grocery stores in Southwest Virginia.
Shoppers can now find affordable healthy fruits and vegetables in Food City stores in Wise and Big Stone Gap, and in IGA stores in Pennington Gap and Jonesville. The effort aims to help local families afford healthy Practically Perfect fruits and vegetables while bolstering revenue for local farmers, and together they will help to reduce food waste.
Consumers will notice that Practically Perfect produce is slightly unusual in shape, size or color, but that it still tastes delicious and is high in nutritional value. ASD is known for its programs that diversify local economies, strengthen the regional food business sector and increase consumer access to healthy local foods. For this pilot program, ASD is collaborating with its partner Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit working to make locally grown fruits and vegetables more affordable for the people who need it most (wholesomewave.org).
Helping shoppers love lumpy squash
Practically Perfect produce will be offered throughout the harvest season based on availability. Initial seasonal favorites will be peppers, squash and tomatoes. The campaign will use playful illustrations and a “Produce with Character” theme to help shoppers learn to love lumpy squash or peppers with an additional lobe. The Southwest Virginia launch is only the beginning for ASD’s national partner who plans to replicate the program from coast to coast. Wholesome Wave will collaborate with other food hubs to make produce affordable nationwide while helping their farmers prevent lost revenue.
Food waste and poor diets in America
Typically, American consumers only see “#1 grade” fruits and vegetables offered in retail stores. In order for local farmers to sell this produce to retailers, they must follow rigorous grading procedures. What many consumers don’t know is that depending on the crop, farmers are often unable to sell nearly 40% of their crops as #1 quality. With farmers unable to sell those “seconds,” many don’t even pick them or must allow them to rot on the vine, because they cannot afford to pay the labor necessary to harvest the crop.
It’s not news that Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables or that diet-related disease disproportionately affects low-income communities. Sadly the cheapest choices consumers make can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And while many families struggle to afford healthy fruits and vegetables, produce farmers find themselves not harvesting plenty of perfectly delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables, because it’s cost prohibitive for them to do so.
Dale Craig, ASD’s Practically Perfect Project Coordinator comments, “Seconds produce are fruits and vegetables that are just a little bigger, smaller or differently colored than #1 graded produce. We feel that Practically Perfect produce is a Win – Win – Win for all; customers are saving money, they are supporting local farmers and both efforts will help to reduce food waste.”
About Wholesome Wave
Wholesome Wave is a nonprofit working to make locally grown fruits and vegetables more affordable for the people who need it most. Their initiatives serve over half a million under served consumers and thousands of farmers annually, in 48 states and counting.
About Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD)
Nationally known and respected for its commitment to local farmers, Appalachian Sustainable Development is transitioning Appalachia to a more resilient economy and a healthier population by supporting local agriculture, exploring new economic opportunities and connecting people with healthy food. Since 1995, ASD has served 15 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. As ASD’s work continues, it will expand its focus to include regional partnerships that build important connections to increase market access and bring necessary resources to the rural communities in its physical footprint. ASD operates programs that create jobs in farming and agriculture and address food insecurity. To learn more, go to asdevelop.org or visit Facebook or Twitter.