Jamie Oliver has always been a food crusader, as has his mate Jimmy Doherty, and their relentlessness has yielded another glimmer of success and progress. Asda launched their Wonky Veg Box on February 5, in another attempt to reduce food wastage and pioneer more supermarket accountability for the issue. Sound like a good plan? Actually it isn't good... it's brilliant.
Last year, Asda slackened their policy on the appearance of some of its vegetable produce, allowing for crooked carrots, topsy-turvy tomatoes and sideways swedes. This came off the back of Jamie and Jimmy, among other celebrity chefs, putting pressure on supermarkets to cut down their food waste. The key stressing point to customers has been that, despite the appearance, there is no difference whatsoever in quality between the goofy and the gorgeous vegetables.
Food waste is a huge environmental issue in the U.K. There's no way to sugar coat it, it's simply ridiculous. The average household wastes nearly half of all the food they buy and half of that waste is food that was no longer edible. This adds up to seven million tonnes of food thrown away every year just from people's homes! Add that number to the waste from supermarkets, restaurants and fast food chains, cafeterias at work and schools and colleges and the number reaches eye watering levels.
This new Wonky Veg Box can eliminate much of Asda's wasted vegetables which didn't make the grade. According to the guardian, fifteen percent of Asda's potatoes and parsnips are wasted along with ten percent of onions and eight percent of carrots. Wonky Veg Boxes allow those figures to fall, reducing wasted food still further.
I know what you're thinking now, how does one supermarket chain changing its vegetable selection slightly help all that? Well, the dominos (No, not the pizza chain) keep on falling with the knock on of this simple move. Customers will pay only £3.50 for a box of vegetables that will feed a family of four for a week. When comparing the equivalent quantities with food not from this wonky box, customers save roughly 30 percent on their weekly vegetables just by choosing the ugly ducklings. That's music to anyone's ears.
In addition, the trickle down effects continue to farmers who produce the produce. As they're given more scope for which vegetables make the grade, farmers can increase their sales to supermarkets and make them more profitable which helps the industry as a whole. It also means that less is wasted on the farmer's end of stock that isn't wanted. The cost of vegetables for the consumer also comes down as supermarkets have more stock available for selling.
Thinking more big-picture, the good news keeps on coming. The Wonky Veg boxes only contain local, seasonal produce which reduces the demand for perfectly plump pears which have been grown and flown from overseas. This reduces the environmental impact and makes the world greener as a whole.
You might argue that just changing which shaped carrots you buy won't have that scale of affect. However, we've already seen that the small amounts individuals throw away adds up to a huge difference nationally so that should work in the other direction too. If one person at time starts to buy locally and seasonally, eventually you completely reduce or eliminate the demand for imported goods.
The final big benefit to fall will be the health benefits to people buying the Wonky Veg Box. Supermarket changes like this encourage people to eat healthier as fresh fruit and vegetables are more readily available and cheaper. It brings that whole 'five fruit and veg a day' thing into more realistic goals for many people. If a parent can see their whole week's vegetable shop for one £3.50, their main concern for not making fruit and veg a stable part of the family diet is eliminated. It's extremely well priced. That price drop is partly due to the fact that the consumer may need to spend more time peeling or chopping than with conventionally shaped vegetables, but really that's no hardship.
All good news but let's be realistic, the U.K's food waste issue hasn't been sorted overnight. We still waste too much and eat too little fruit and veg, but the intent is there. If the intent is there then that's a good thing and a step in the right direction. Where there's a will and all that. The more supermarkets that take on these initiatives the better and, hopefully, thanks to the Wonky Veg Box, the next time we see a food waste domino effect, it'll be supermarkets lining up to cut their own waste.
By Guy Bezant - Online Journalism Intern
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