food waste

Hunger Action Month 2018

This is just a quick note that September is Hunger Action Month and although we’re already about halfway through the month, there’s still time to get out there and do something. I suggest checking out FeedingAmerica.org to find a local food bank or doing a google search for opportunities near you to volunteer some of your time.

My experience with food banks has been with the Beaverton location of the Oregon Food Bank. This location receives donations from around the state, sorts donations, repacks bulk food into family-sized portions, labels canned food donations, then sends the donations to partner agencies across Oregon and parts of SW Washington where the food is then distributed to families.

The staff is super friendly, and the other volunteers are interesting people to talk to. Often times work groups come with highly motivated (competitive) attitudes to pack more food than other groups, which brings a lot of energy to the shifts. There are a few different types of volunteer shifts you can sign up for and shifts are about 2-3 hours long. If you’re located in Oregon and would like to volunteer at one of the OFB’s locations, check out how to here, www.oregonfoodbank.org/get-involved/volunteer/.

 

The shift I enjoy most is the perishable repack shift, which involves bagging and boxing lots of different donations such as frozen green beans, fresh potatoes, frozen carrots, frozen corn on the cob, flour, and frozen snap peas. They also have “Fresh Alliance” shifts, which involve sorting through refrigerated donations that, I believe, were donated by grocery stores. Volunteers check expiration dates, and inspect for quality, freshness, and package condition.

Pallets of a bulk potato donation.

 

family sized bags of potatoes
Potatoes bagged by volunteers into family sized portions.

 

The Beaverton food bank also holds shifts at the Westside Learning Garden where volunteers help maintain the garden and harvest produce that gets distributed to local organizations as well.

 

Take a moment this weekend to find a local food bank and sign up for a shift this month. If your employer offers VTO, utilize some of that time, or donate food or make a monetary donation – take action this month!

 

My garden produced way more potatoes this year than I can eat so I donated about 15 pounds of my harvest to the Oregon Food Bank.

Impression of My First ‘Imperfect Produce’ Box

I was not sponsored by Imperfect Produce. My opinions and experiences expressed here are my own and I am not affiliated with Imperfect Produce.


Imperfect Produce is subscription-based service that delivers produce to your doorstep that would otherwise be wasted due to either irregularities that don’t meet grocery store standards (size, color, asymmetry, scarring), surplus, or the lack of a consumer market for something.

From Imperfect Produce’s website:

“Imperfect fights food waste by finding a home for ‘ugly’ produce. We source it directly from farms and deliver it to customers’ doors for 30-50% less than grocery store prices. Our subscription produce box is affordable, convenient, customizable, healthy, and delicious.”

Read more detail about Imperfect Produce on their “About Us” page as well as on their FAQs page.

 

How Imperfect Produce Works

4 box types for Imperfect Produce
2018 Imperfect Produce Signup page box types.

You can check their Sign Up page to see if you’re in an area they deliver to (currently only a handful of cities). You can choose from four different box types: Organic, Mixed Fruits & Veggies, All Fruit, or All Veggies. Once you select the box type you want, you can choose from the array of sizes and the frequency you’d like to receive your box, which is either weekly or every other week.

A few days before your delivery date you get an email saying you can log in to customize your box. You have a relatively short window to do this – about 32 hours. Our boxes were delivered on a Monday and I was able to edit it the previous Thursday starting at 3:00pm until 11:00pm on Friday. Once the customization window closes, what you had selected is what you’re getting (supply permitting). Then just wait for it to show up. Well, I mean don’t JUST sit there and wait – live your life and all that.

A few convenient things you can do once you’re signed up is you can easily choose to skip a week, edit your box size, and still choose from the different types of boxes. You’re not stuck with the box type you chose at sign up – you can change it up.

On my delivery day they sent me a text letting me know my box was getting close with a link to track the truck. . . at the same time, I received a text saying it had been delivered. So, by “getting close” they meant the front door. 🙂

Imperfect Produce Delivery Truck Tracker

 

My First Imperfect Produce box

Monday August 20, 2018
Portland, Oregon metro area

My delivery window was between 3:00pm – 11:00pm and the boxes were delivered at 6:00pm, which was actually pretty convenient. It was hot that day (mid to upper 90’s) so it’s possible the produce would have gotten a little “sad” had it been delivered any earlier or had I not been home at the time. I ordered the Mixed Fruits and Veggies box, size medium and below is the side-by-side of what I order and what I received.

 

Ordered:

Received:

1 lb of potatoes
3 red bell peppers
3 green bell peppers
1 organic celery heart
2 cucumbers
5 carrots
1 bunch of kale
1 cauliflower
1 lb of beets
1 lb of onions
1 lb of peaches
1 lb of plums
1 lb of apples
1 lb of pears
1 lb of nectarines
3 naval oranges
0.5lbs of Medjool Dates
6 Limes
5 Kiwis
2 lbs California Organic Mill Grade Brown Rice    
Alter Eco Dark Mint Truffles (10ct)
A recipe card for a blueberry smoothie
A welcome kit (information sheet)

3 potatoes
3 red bell peppers
3 green bell peppers
1 organic celery heart
1 large cucumber
8 carrots
1 bunch of purple kale
1 cauliflower
2 beets (no greens)
5 onions
4 peaches
4 plums
3 apples
4 pears
4 nectarines
3 naval oranges
~10 Medjool Dates
6 limes
6 kiwis
2 lb bag California Organic Mill Grade Brown Rice
Alter Eco Dark Mint Truffles (10ct)
A recipe card for a blueberry smoothie
A welcome kit (information sheet)

The Produce, etc.

A couple of the items were not as fresh as they could have been – several of the carrots were rubbery (they’ll be fine in soup), one of the limes needed to be tossed within two days, and the peaches got wrinkly quick. I had to toss a peach that got moldy fairly soon after we got it too, but at least the things that went bad had a home in my compost bin.

Some of the fruit didn’t have delicious, sweet flavor, but most was amazing. I ate one of the naval oranges while writing this and had to stop to just eat the whole thing. A couple of the nectarines had an off-texture that was almost spongy. I give this a pass though because even some of the “pretty” produce I get at the grocery store is hit or miss as far as flavor and texture goes. Can’t always know until you eat it. It’s worth mentioning again that the weather was warm the week we got our box so I’m not surprised some of our fruit went bad quickly.

The vegetables have been great. The bell peppers are almost gone, ate the cauliflower last night, 2 of the onions are gone, the kale is half gone, and the rest will keep for a while.

It’s interesting that they sometimes have non-produce items available as well. We got the brown rice and mint truffles, both of which were good. No complaints there other than I wish there were more truffles.

I thought it was helpful of them to include their storage guide because I think a lot of people (myself included) refrigerate more than we need to or keep fruits together that cause faster ripening. This sort of information is great for reducing food waste at home.

All told, our first box delivery cost us $35.03. This included the $4.99 delivery fee, and minus the $2.99 cost of the brown rice (they thought we hadn’t received it).

Downsides

I don’t like that I can’t see how much I paid for each item in my order history; all I can see is the total cost for that week’s box. Maybe I’m alone on this, but I like to see how the costs of things are changing over time. I’d have to remember to take a screen shot during the customization period in order to track that.

They deliver the produce in cardboard boxes and although I know they can’t reuse them for food safety reasons, it’s still an item that’s more often than not, just being recycled after one use. I did find a use for mine in the garage so the first two will live on, but as time goes on and more produce is delivered, I don’t know that I’ll be able to find a use for all of them and off to the recycling center they will go. One thing each and every box will be used for is ferret-play-time because new smells = amazing to ferrets snouts.

Ferrets playing in Imperfect Produce Box

Other Oddities

My selections indicated I’d get 2 cucumbers, but I received 1 – it was a very large cucumber though so I’m not complaining. I think that’s fair, but other people may not think so, which is why I’m mentioning it. I also received an extra kiwi, a few extra carrots, and I got reimbursed for the rice because they thought I didn’t receive it in my box (I emailed them and let them know I did, but their customer service rep told me to enjoy the rice on them). *thumbs-up*

One thing I found odd about the customization process was that I signed up for a “medium” box, but by adding and removing things to my box, I had no idea if my box was “full”. My produce ended up coming in 2 boxes so I guess based on how much I paid, I ended up purchasing an “extra-large” box simply because I kept adding things. I was pleased by the care they took with not stuffing my box full, but instead splitting it into two boxes so the produce at the bottom didn’t get crushed. Big *thumbs-up*

Imperfect Produce Delivery 1 Box 1 Imperfect Produce Delivery 1 Box 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

Imperfect Produce - #cookingugly - Brown Rice, Red and Green Bell Peppers, Onion, and Celery

My first impression of my first box is, I wasn’t blown away by it, but I’m not disappointed either. I was annoyingly excited about receiving it and I’m still hyped about the company and the work they’re doing, but there is room for improvement. I typically buy groceries from Winco and they already have amazingly low prices on produce, so next time I’m there I’ll compare prices on these items to see how much my box of produce would have cost there. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see a price comparison between my Imperfect Produce selections and my local grocery store. I get the feeling the prices will be comparable, but what this did save me was time driving to and from the grocery store, putzing around the store, dodging annoying people, and waiting in the checkout line. As a millennial who embraces introversion, I call this first experience a win 😉 Aside from convenience and potential cost savings, I support this company primarily because I hate food waste. I think they are doing something worthwhile and I’d love to dive deeper in another post about their impacts on food waste.

 

Imperfect Produce - #cookingugly - Cooked Red and Green Bell Peppers, Onion, and CeleryImperfect Produce may not necessarily be the best option for everyone. For example, people who tend to not cook at home much or find themselves throwing out produce because it goes bad before they get a chance to eat it may not see the full benefit of buying Imperfect. There are positive aspects for the consumer such as saving time, and helping alleviate a global problem (food waste), but if you find yourself throwing out produce at home, the food is still getting wasted. I get why it’s appealing to people in this busy world to have fresh produce delivered, but there are other grocery delivery options other than Imperfect Produce that may better suit your lifestyle, such as Instacart. That being said, I don’t want to deter people from trying it. I still recommend giving it a chance because you may be inspired to cook at home more and use the produce before it goes bad as well as eat healthier. There will always be some food that goes bad – we have our busy days, weeks, months – so make the best of it – compost what you can, freeze fruits that are starting to ripen too quickly, put your wilted greens in some water, or make a big batch of something and freeze the rest for a hectic night. 

Imperfect Produce - #cookingugly - Brown Rice, Red and Green Bell Peppers, Onion, and Celery, and Tofu

I just customized my second box and as of right now, I plan on continuing my subscription. I’m looking forward to cutting down on shopping trips, especially once the school term starts up in a few weeks, and continuing to support a company working to reduce food waste. Please share your experiences buying and eating Imperfect! I’d love to know how it’s working for other subscribers.

Leave me a comment or *like* this post if you’d be interested in hearing my perspectives on the impact Imperfect Produce is having on food waste and on the communities within the cities they deliver. I’ve come across some articles talking about possible negative impacts of Imperfect Produce on donations to food banks, and I think it would make an interesting discussion.

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Check here to see if Imperfect Produce delivers in your area. If they do, find out if any of your friends are signed up and get a referral code from them so you get a credit on your first box – they’ll get a credit as well! If you don’t know anyone currently signed up, you can always use mine – just ask.

Curbing Food Waste Little by Little

I was happy to see an article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ August issue about food waste in the United States. The article is brief, but it talks about some ways Dietitians can try to get involved in this global issue. I whole-heartedly agree that food waste is an issue dietitians can be involved in! As someone working toward a degree in nutrition with the hopes of becoming a Registered Dietitian, I’m happy to see the profession is conscious of the roll they can play in teaching people how to not waste nutrients, while also teaching how to consume nutrients.

Here Lies Cucumber | Sara Kerr | 08.24.2017

I try to reduce food waste in my house as much as possible, but often, it really can’t be helped. I think a lot of us just have such busy work/school/recreational lives that concerning ourselves with saving every scrap of food just isn’t a priority. What does motivate me is saving money. I’m currently a full-time student and I don’t like the idea of wasting perfectly good food. However, sometimes I just cannot eat all the bananas fast enough before they become over-ripe, and there’s only so much banana bread I can tolerate. Or sometimes I’ll forget there’s a half-used cucumber in the bottom of the vegetable drawer and by the time I re-discover it, it’s slimy and gross. R-I-P cucumber.

I don’t want to bore you with stats and numbers about how much food is wasted globally – there are a fair number of documentaries, blogs and videos available online that will try to persuade/guilt you into changing. It certainly frustrates me knowing how much food is wasted, especially on the production side of our food system, but getting worked up or frustrated about something I can’t change is wasted energy. Instead, I want to share with you two things I do around my house to limit food waste.

Edible Vegetable Scraps for Stock

Frozen Vegetable Scraps | Sara Kerr | 08.24.2017This is obvious and nothing new, but I think a lot of people think they don’t have the time for it, but making vegetable stock is a great way to save money and reduce waste. I keep a plastic bag in my freezer and whenever I have a piece of vegetable scrap I decide whether it’s worthy of making stock from it or whether it should go into the compost. I realize it’s hard fitting something new into your routine especially when it’s easy and familiar to toss scraps into the trash. Initially, it can be difficult to remember there’s a plastic bag in the freezer for scraps, however, I encourage you to give it a try.

I do want to reason with you for a second if you feel making vegetable stock is something you can’t do or don’t want to: you’re going to throw those scraps out anyway, so instead of throwing them in a garbage bag, throw them in the freezer bag. They can keep for a fairly long time and when you want to take a stab at making stock, all you have to do is throw them into a pot with some water, let them simmer on the stove and then strain out and save the liquid. It’s really simple and not as intimidating or as daunting as you may think, plus it saves you money by making stock from stuff you would have just thrown out. If you already know how to do this, great! Help a friend do it!

Compost

Composted Eggshells | Sara_Kerr | 08.24.2017Again, this is probably a very obvious thing, but it’s worth mentioning composting. I realize not everyone has a backyard, but there are ways to compost on your balcony or even on your countertop. When I lived in an apartment I utilized two 5 gallon buckets stacked one inside the other with holes drilled in the bottom of the upper bucket to allow drainage.

Currently, I have a small bin on my counter where I put vegetable scraps and once a week (ish) I take it outside to my compost pile, now that I’m living in a house. During the winter I keep a small compost bin outside our back door on the deck (the one I has used on our apartment balcony) so I can dump our indoor bin into that one and then once the one on the deck gets full, I take that one over to the main compost pile. This is just so I don’t have to step out into the rain or snow every time. I don’t know if “lazy” or “wuss” is more accurate, but it’s what works for me, so don’t judge! 🙂

Every couple weeks I take a pitchfork and turn the compost so that the air can get to some of the stuff underneath and so the stuff on top gets covered where the microbes can get to it. I also compost other things, but I can talk more about my composting in another article.

Compost Pile | Sara Kerr | 08.24.2017

Well those are two of the ways I try to cut down on wasted food in my house! I think an important thing to note is that even if food has gone bad, that doesn’t mean it has gone to waste! Composting is a good way to make use of those food scraps. Let us know what ways you cut down on food waste in your house in the comments below. Also, let me know if you’d like to see a video “tour” of my compost or how to make vegetable broth or something similar on my YouTube channel. Thanks for reading!