Nearly a third of food produced doesn’t make it to the shelves — and the waste pollutes, according to UN

By CBC NEWS Posted: Oct 16, 2016 5:00 PM PT 

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The United Nations has declared food waste to be a global challenge, and some B.C. produce distributors have their own solution — serving up ugly fruits and veggies.

According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, one-third of the food produced for human consumption ends up being wasted throughout the supply chain — and the waste leads to significant greenhouse gas emissions.

So when organic food distributor Brody Irvine found out that a lot of the produce being harvested in the Lower Mainland doesn’t even make it to the grocery store due to “imperfections” — superficial bumps, bruises and scrapes — he decided to do something about it.

He began collecting ugly fruits and veggies from farmers that would otherwise go in the compost bin, and packaging them together under the label “Rebel Food.”

Justice for blemished fruits and vegetables

“‘Rebel Food’ was chosen because we didn’t want it to have a negative connotation,” he said. “We wanted it to be something that’s very powerful — empowering for farmers and empowering for people looking for increased access to organic food.”


Irvine says these carrots might look a little ‘gnarly’, but they pack the same flavour and crunch as their perfectly straight counterparts. (Jennifer Chen/CBC)

Rebel Food is distributed by produce provider Discovery Organics to nearly 20 independent grocery stores in the region.

Irvine purchases the unsightly produce from farmers who have trouble getting it on grocery shelves due to appearance, often leaving the food to rot.

But Irvine says the quirks have no effect on quality.

“We’ve got some pretty gnarly looking carrots — twisted and forked that still tastes great and still has nice crunch and flavour to it, but normally wouldn’t make it to the grocery shelves,” said Irvine.


Blemishes on this grapefruit’s skin keep it from hitting the shelves of major grocery stores. (Jennifer Chen/CBC)

“We’ve got bins of apples and bins of carrots [inside our warehouse]. There’s a few little bumps and bruises and spots that make them not necessarily premium grade — but perfect for the rebel program,” he said.

“Rebel Food” sells for cheaper than regular organic produce, and the stock has been welcomed by some independent grocers hoping to provide customers with a cheap alternative.