Where is the compassion? I am appalled to see such prejudice in our area. Restaurants, grocery stores, chefs and foodies are all displaying unacceptable and egregious behavior toward misfit produce. Don’t they realize the impact of their behavior?
In order to understand what’s going on, we must first get to the root of the problem.
Any farmer will tell you that approximately 5–10% of their crops are considered “misfits.” These cosmetically challenged fruits and vegetables may be imperfect in size, shape or color, but they remain as fresh and tasty as their more beautiful counterparts. Still, my research indicates that, generally speaking, Hamptons residents are unwilling to accept misfit produce and their imperfections, so restaurants and stores also refuse to use or sell them.
“They would turn their nose up to them in a New York second,” a local chef who wishes to remain anonymous explains.
Even local grocery stores and farmers markets shy away from displaying and selling this irregular produce.
“It’s just a fact—people want pretty fruits and vegetables,” the produce manager of one highly visible local grocery store agrees.
Maybe I live in a fantasy world, but why can’t we accept all produce? Think of the economic impact that would result from removing this type of bias. Farmers could sell more of their crop instead of throwing it away, and consumers would also benefit as these misfits would undoubtedly be sold for a discounted price.
One Midwest supermarket chain, Hy-Vee, has broken through the produce wall of shame and is now offering four to six misfit items at 30% less than regular price. John Griesenbrock, Hy Vee’s vice president of produce/health markets, recently told Omaha World Herald, “Offerings vary from week to week based on availability.”
The Omaha World Herald article also notes, “Six billion pounds of fresh produce goes unused each year.”
I implore you to think of the number of people this could feed. What purpose is served if these unwanted, tender fruit and veggie souls are cast aside or left to rot in the field? Was that God’s intent?
Despite these troubling facts, it’s highly unlikely the majority of people in the Hamptons will ever be swayed into buying this misshapen produce.
If we are going to become a more compassionate society, free from bigotry and discrimination, we need to start embracing non-conformity. And where else to start than by opening our minds and hearts to misfit produce?