Imperfect Produce

In the age of internet and food delivery, there are no shortage of ways to get food delivered to your home. Some of these services, like meal kits, are (in my ever so humble opinion) wasteful and only good for reinforcing general attitudes of excess, busyness, and laziness, but others are based on the principle of getting fresh food into the hands of consumers. Over the summer, I got the occasional CSA box from Terra Organics. I loved that the service was local, but it didn’t deliver directly to my home and the box was only offered for a short season. Then, I learned about Imperfect Produce. Imperfect Produce is a food delivery business that sources produce that doesn’t meet grocery standards and sells it to consumers at a discount. American consumers have been trained to have ridiculous standards when it comes to produce, meaning farmers have little incentive to harvest produce that is the wrong size or shape according to grocery stores. As a result, resources are poured into growing food that is destined to rot in the field.

A box full of beautiful, imperfect produce.

Imperfect Produce is set up to be a simple delivery subscription service. You select the box that is the right size for your household and can choose between organic or conventional produce. One of my favorite features is that you can customize your box to based on your dietary preferences or what you already have in stock. I get a medium box every week and spend about $15-$20 (which includes a delivery fee of $4.99). I try to eat as local as possible, so typically remove items from my box that were grown in Mexico. In this week’s box, I get to look forward to: 2 apples, 3 avocados, 1 pound of beets, 2 bell peppers, 2 pounds of pears, 1 pound of potatoes, and 1 pound of tomatoes, all for $17.02. Produce arrives in a recyclable cardboard box with handy info cards about the food. Things are occasionally packaged in plastic, but far less than I was getting in my CSA box.

Imperfect produce is particularly great for me since there are no grocery stores in my neighborhood and I do not have a car. So not only can I help reduce food waste at a discount, I also get improved access to produce (so I’ll hopefully eat out less).

The founders of Imperfect Produce have an impressive history in the world of food recovery and access. Ben Simon founded the Food Recovery Network, a student movement dedicated to addressing food waste on college campuses, and Ron Clark worked with the California Association of Food Banks. Their backgrounds assure me that the company is truly committed to the issues of food waste and access. This commitment seems to run through all aspects of their company, including a dashboard in your Imperfect Produce account that tracks that pounds you’ve diverted from going to waste, water saved, and CO2 kept out of the air. They also keep things transparent with a thorough FAQ section.

I had one major reservation when it came to Imperfect Produce, and that was the issue of food banks. Working in the emergency food world, I know first hand that food pantries benefit from consumer expectations for perfect looking food. I didn’t want my search for a deal on produce to inadvertently divert produce from a food pantry to my kitchen when I can afford to buy my own produce from grocery stores. I reached out to Imperfect Produce noting my concerns and very quickly received a response from the company. They assured me that they source directly from farmers, rather than grocers or gleaning agencies (typical sources of produce for food banks). There is also so much produce going to waste that there is enough to go to consumers at food pantries and at Imperfect Produce. The company also donates to food banks and they gave me a list of the nonprofits they currently partner with in Washington. (Thank you Marlana for thoughtfully answering my questions!)

Who would reject these cute oranges? Not me!

Imperfect Produce currently delivers throughout the West Coast of the U.S. and the Chicago area. I would definitely reccommend that you check them out if you want to help reduce food waste and save a little money. You can also use my link to get a $10 credit towards your first box that’ll give me $10 towards my next purchase (p.s. they offer a link to anyone on their site, no special treatment for a little blogger like me).