Some produce isn't pretty. You might get a lopsided apple, a curvy cucumber, a lemon with one too many blemishes, or a carrot that just looks weird. Most of that imperfect produce doesn't make it into grocery stores, where a majority of American shoppers still get their food, meaning that a significant amount of fresh produce ends up going to waste in landfills or in the fields.
Delivery service Imperfect Produce aims to change that fact by offering boxes of ugly fruits and vegetables for home delivery for a lower price than what you get in the grocery store. The company just announced that they are adding Austin, Texas, to their list of service areas starting October 4.
The service works a little like a CSA box (community supported agriculture), except that the boxes can be customized by box size, the frequency of delivery, regular or organic produce, and type of box (all fruits or vegetables or a mix). You can also choose what seasonal fruits and vegetables go in your box, based on what's available from farms that week.
The company sources the produce straight from farmers, where they'd otherwise be surplus or waste, which is why these fresh fruits and vegetables cost 30 to 50 percent less than if you bought them in the grocery store. The only difference with this produce is that it has cosmetic imperfections that grocery chains don't want or there's too much of it and grocery stores won't buy the extra.
CEO Ben Simon and co-founder Ben Chesler started Imperfect Produce in 2015 in California as an extension of their work with the Food Recovery Network, a nonprofit founded by Simon, dedicated to preventing food waste on college campuses. They are clear that the produce they sell does not negatively impact produce donations to local organizations helping to feed people in need; this is food that was going to waste, not to food banks.
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With the addition of Austin, the delivery service is now in 10 areas, with plans to expand to other cities in Texas and across the United States. The service is available in San Antonio already, as well as four metro areas in California, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee.
The City of Austin will proclaim October 8 as "Imperfect Produce Day." Austin delivery will start in central neighborhoods and expand to other areas during the rollout; you can find delivery areas on the company's sign up page. And in an opening special, Austin residents can use code ATX5 to receive $5 off their first weekly or bi-weekly shipment (normally $12-18). The boxes have a delivery fee of $4.99.
If you're not sure about ugly produce being just as tasty as the pretty fruits and vegetables, Imperfect Produce is partnering with Lick Honest Ice Creams to create a limited edition Spiced Sweet Potato Pie ice cream flavor available at all Austin locations starting October 4 until November 23. This new fall flavor features imperfect sweet potatoes, house-made vanilla marshmallows, and chunks of molasses cookie made from scratch in Lick's Northwest Austin kitchen.