Story of the Week 4/19/2016

For the Love of Ugly Food

By Ryann Collins, Nutrition and Agriculture Educator with Green Mountain Farm-to-School

10968329_10153587016173452_5000029526000807558_nI worked with a group of 5th- and 6th-graders at Lakeview Union School on a food systems unit, discussing complex notions like cage-free vs. free range chicken operations, fair trade, and food security. During the final session, we discussed the enormous amount of food waste in developed nations and watched a video about a French supermarket, Intermarche, that markets aesthetically challenged produce as "inglorious fruits and vegetables," selling them at a 30% discount and diverting them from the waste stream. I showed the video as an afterthought, but the students were clearly affected by it.

Ecologically_grown_vegetablesA week later, I received an email from the principal, inviting me to a student council meeting. Apparently, some of the students who watched the video suggested that, as a student council fundraiser, they could take the "ugly" vegetables from local farms and sell them to parents and community members at a discounted rate. They asked their principal to invite me to their next meeting, along with a parent who works on a large organic farm. We've had a couple of meetings since, and as a result, starting this month, the students will be handing out order forms for ugly potatoes, carrots, and beets. They'll travel to the farm and learn how to sort truly rotten food from food that is merely ugly. Then, they'll bag up the orders and bring the vegetables back to school for pick-up by parents and community members. The school has shown a lot of support for the idea, even expressing interest in making the "Ugly Food Sale" and annual occurrence! Thanks to the efforts of these amazing students, the community will have access to organic vegetables at a great price, and this year’s proceeds will go to a group of anti-poaching activists in Africa called the Black Mambas.

VHCB AmeriCorps is a program of the
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

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