New UN Food Waste Recovery Program Targets “Ugly” Fruits and Vegetables

Efforts to decrease food waste have led the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to launch a new campaign calling on new ways to utilize and sell “ugly” fruits and vegetables.

According to, the initiative called “Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint” kicked of in Kenya, where the UNEP Governing Council was holding a meeting. The new program sourced 3,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables that were rejected by the local export market. That food was served at the zero-waste reception of the UNEP meeting.

“No economic, environmental or ethical argument can be made to justify the extent of food waste and loss currently happening in the world, and at UNEP we practice what we preach,” said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director.

Supermarkets often reject fruits and vegetables solely for cosmetic reasons, leading to excessive amounts of wasted food, according to Tristam Stuart, a food waste writer and campaigner. FoodNavigator reports Stuart saying, “The waste of perfectly edible ‘ugly’ vegetables is endemic in our food production systems and symbolises our negligence” But, he adds, “it is also a huge opportunity: By persuading supermarkets to change their standards, and by developing processing and other ways of marketing this produce, we can help to increase on-farm incomes and food availability where it is needed most.”

The UN estimates that at least one-third of the world’s food ends up wasted at some point along the supply chain. And particularly in the developed world, manufacturers and retailers that employ inefficient practices are largely to blame for the waste. As much as 250 pounds of food is waster per person per year throughout Europe and the U.S.

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Image: Darwin Bell