Loyola University Chicago
The unique business model of Perfectly Imperfect Produce is rescuing produce from farms that will be rejected by supermarkets, to sell the rescued produce in subscription boxes delivered to the person's home, and, for every purchase, to donate a box to a food pantry. Perfectly Imperfect Produce emerged in 2016 when the founder Ashley Weingart learned about food waste while working at her husband's wholesale produce distribution company in Cleveland. She went to farms locally and around the country and saw firsthand the massive amounts of food waste due to grocery stores' rejection of produce because of the size, shape, or color. She also saw entire fields not being harvested because of imperfections. After her husband's family business closed, she decided to start Perfectly Imperfect Produce and the company is still growing.
The mission is to reduce food waste and give access to healthy food for all. So far, over 1,000,000 lbs. of imperfect or surplus produce has been rescued and more than 100,000 people in need have been fed. A highlight for Weingart is "seeing the progress we've made over the past four and half years to rescue more of that food that is at risk of going to waste and getting it to people in need through those donations. Also, just helping families and customers feed their families healthy nutritious food and provide them with recipes using the produce they get in the box that they might be unfamiliar with." Because of Americans' poor diets, Weingart's goal is to help everyone become healthier. Perfectly Imperfect Produce wants people to eat new foods, such as butternut squash, and find it delicious. Any food that is no longer suitable for consumption is taken to Rust Belt Riders, a commercial composter, that sells the compost and teaches people about healthy soil, climate change, and sustainability.
Photo creds: Karin McKenna
The inspiration for this idea was for everyone to access healthy food and to reduce food waste at every level in the food chain. Looking at the food chain and how typically imperfect foods would go straight into the landfills, Perfectly Imperfect Produce purchases the "ugly" produce, reducing food waste at both the production and consumption levels. In the United States, "6 billion pounds of produce is wasted due to 'imperfections.'" The volume of food waste in the U.S. motivated Weingart to start the company. The goal is to buy rescued food to reduce food waste, to support local farms, businesses, and food banks in different parts of Ohio, to donate food to those in need, and to provide healthy food to all.
Perfectly Imperfect Produce estimates that over 1,000,000 lbs. of imperfect or surplus produce has been rescued. "Our country throws away 40% of the food we produce," says the company website. Avoiding food waste avoids greenhouse gas emissions. Rotting food, such as food thrown in the trash and going to the landfill, produces methane gas and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Perfectly Imperfect Produce helps avert those emissions by rescuing the food.
Perfectly Imperfect Produce estimates that more than 100,000 people in need have been fed through its donations of imperfect produce to area food banks. The company's website states, "it's absurd that more than 40 million people in our nation go hungry when nearly 40% of our food supply is being wasted." Perfectly Imperfect Produce helps provide healthy food for those in need through its donations to food pantries.
Perfectly Imperfect Produce helps the local economy by acquiring imperfect produce from eight local farms. For every box purchased by customers, the company buys more produce from local farms and donates it to local food pantries. "We just announced that they are expanding to Cincinnati and Dayton in southern Ohio during the first week of October. We also go to Toledo and Columbus, but our goal when we go into new cities is to not only rescue produce from farms in those regions but also donate back to those food pantries in those cities as well." Perfectly Imperfect Produce's impact expands as the company expands.
Perfectly Imperfect Produce is making an impact by reducing food waste in the United States. Weingart told me that “40% of the food produced in our country gets thrown away.” Perfectly Imperfect Produce is helping reduce food waste and wasting the time and energy that goes into farming. This innovation helps the community and also the planet by reducing food waste and feeding healthy foods to people in need.
Ashley Weingart, Founder
Ashley Weingart, Founder
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Cleveland, Ohio, US
Business Website: https://www.perfectlyimperfectproduce.com
Year Founded: 2016
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
According to the Perfectly Imperfect Produce's website, the company's mission is "to reduce food waste and improve access to healthy food for all. That's why, for every box purchased, we donate produce to local food pantries." This is the meaning of Rescued. Boxed. Delivered. Shoppers in grocery stores expect to buy produce that doesn't have bruises and that has the right shape and color. Perfectly Imperfect Produce rescues produce that doesn't look as perfect as grocery stores and customers prefer or that is surplus for the farmer. After rescuing the imperfect or surplus produce, the company sells subscription boxes, and donates another box to food pantries. The company focuses on two UN Sustainable Development Goals #2: Zero Hunger addressing food waste and #12: responsible production and consumption regarding food deserts.