Belgium is known for its hundreds of beers, praline chocolates and now… ugly vegetables? To counteract food waste, one of the country’s major supermarket chains, Delhaize, has begun to sell boxes of ‘ugly vegetables’, which include lumpy and misshapen varieties that are typically thrown away before they ever reach supermarket shelves. Keeping the bigger picture in mind, nearly 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU’s 28 member states, according to the European Commission.
This problem is both economic and moral. Desperate families and individuals resort to scrounging in supermarket bins at night in many parts of the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has calculated that 870 million hungry people around the world are chronically undernourished.
Food waste also adds millions of tonnes of CO2 and methane emissions to the atmosphere every year, increasing global warming; if nothing is done, food waste could rise to more than 120 million tonnes by 2020.
In Belgium Delhaize claims that it will be the first in the country to offer vegetables that are irregularly shaped, sized or discolored, but still meet standards of quality and freshness.
Over the border in May this year, France passed a law requiring supermarkets to pass on unsold food to charities in an effort to tackle the widespread problem of food waste. French supermarkets were banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food and must donate it to charities or for animal feed.
From the ‘UglyFruitAndVeg’ campaign, petitioning Walmart and Whole Foods in the US; to ‘Fruta Feia’ in Portugal; and the ‘Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables’ campaign in France, many are encouraging the selling and purchasing of ugly fruits and vegetables. These initiatives in turn support local agriculture and farming in their respective countries.
Now, Delhaize’s pilot project will last 14 weeks and involve 16 stores, including Brussels. The vegetables are all grown in Belgium and will be sold in a 2.5 kilogramme box for a flat price of €3.99.
Salad bowls around the country will never look the same again, but that’s a small price to pay for the changes that are needed to alter and re-educate food shopping culture in Europe. If anything, those that feel guilty when they waste food have a chance to make amends.