TRENTON, N.J. – What do you call an ugly tomato? A tomato. A resolution to be introduced Thursday by Assemblyman Parker Space and Assemblywoman Gail Phoebus will help save “ugly” produce from landfills and promote them as an economical source of fresh, nutritious food.
“Moms care about appearance when buying fruits and vegetables for the family table,” said Space (R—Sussex, Warren, Morris), a member of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. “A percentage of farm crops won’t make it to retail markets because they don’t meet the standards. They don’t look good enough. Despite the cosmetic flaws, this produce tastes identical and contains all the same nutritional benefits.”
Imperfect produce is fresh and undamaged, but may be misshapen, too large or too small, or have flaws in coloration.
“When a farmer is disposing of crop, it is a waste of water, fertilizer, and labor,” said Phoebus (R—Sussex, Warren, Morris). “Everybody benefits when we put the product to good use in salads, soups, nutritious smoothies and other recipes. Schools will save money by utilizing imperfect fruits and vegetables in cafeteria meals.”
Space and Phoebus’ resolution urges the state Agriculture Department and the Department of Education to find ways to use imperfect fruits and vegetables, reducing food waste in the state.
“In Europe and Australia, retailers have found a ready market for ugly produce sold at a discount,” said Space. “This is food that had been destined for a landfill or incinerator, and instead it is providing nutrition for cash-conscious consumers. When we get this program rolling in New Jersey, we’ll have more, cheaper food on our tables, and farmers will reap more profit without any more investment or effort. It is a perfect situation where everybody wins.”
Space noted that the “baby-cut carrots” so popular in lunchboxes today were invented 30 years ago as productive use for full-size carrots that did not meet the visual standard for retail sale.