“Practically Perfect” Fruits and Vegetables Coming to Area Supermarkets
Abingdon, Virginia — Area supermarket shoppers will notice something new in the produce aisle: “Practically Perfect” fruits and vegetables available at approximately 30% discounted prices. These slightly larger or smaller cousins of garden-variety fruits and vegetables, complete with a whimsically illustrated marketing campaign and compelling discounts, are part of an ambitious plan by two non-profit organizations to simultaneously increase food access, boost local public health and agricultural economies.
It’s not news that Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables, or that diet-related disease disproportionately affects low-income communities. Sadly the cheapest choices can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But while many families struggle to afford healthy fruits and vegetables, produce farmers find themselves not harvesting plenty of perfectly delicious and nutritious produce because its cost prohibitive for them to do so.
Precise grading of produce harvests means barely half of the crops qualify as “#1 quality.” Simple so-called imperfections – fruits and vegetables that are slightly larger or smaller than average – fall on the wrong side of USDA and grocery grading standards. As a result, produce farmers are unable to sell nearly 40% of their crops as “#1 quality” – even when the outliers are perfectly delicious and nutritious. This “imperfect” produce takes the same amount of time, energy, water and expense to grow as the #1 quality, but often ends up remaining in the field or discarded.
Regional non-profit, Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) had the idea to solve both problems at once. ASD partnered with national nonprofit Wholesome Wave, and the project won $299,000 in USDA funding. Practically Perfect produce was born.
Launching as a pilot in four area supermarkets this month, two Food City stores – Wise and Big Stone Gap, VA., two IGA stores – Pennington Gap and Jonesville, VA. The campaign markets locally grown fruits and vegetables that are slightly unusual shapes or sizes, using cheerful signage and carefully crafted promotions, with an aim to benefit area shoppers and farmers alike. Practically Perfect produce, offered at an approximate 30% discount offers significant savings to help families afford healthy choices while offsetting lost revenue for local farmers.
Dale Craig, Practically Perfect Project Coordinator comments, “Seconds produce are fruits and vegetables that are just a little bigger, smaller, irregular color or shape than #1 graded produce. This Practically Perfect produce is a Win – Win — Win for all, the customers are saving money, they are helping local farmers and both efforts will help to reduce food waste. After all, people also come in different shapes and sizes. The campaign uses playful illustrations and a “Produce with Character” theme to help shoppers and their children learn to love lumpy carrots or squash wearing extra stripes.” (SaveTheVeggies.com)
Practically Perfect selections will rotate over the harvest season based on availability. Consumers will find seasonal favorites like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash and cucumbers. The Southwest Virginia launch is only the beginning as ASD’s national partner, Wholesome Wave plans to replicate the program from coast to coast. They will be partnering with other food banks to make produce affordable nationwide while helping their farmers prevent lost revenue.
Two Food City stores – Wise and Big Stone Gap, VA.
Two IGA stores – Pennington Gap and Jonesville, VA.
WHEN: July 12, 2017
Wholesome Wave is a nonprofit working to make locally grown fruits and vegetables more affordable for the people who need it most. When people can afford produce, they buy it. And when the millions of Americans struggling with poverty eat more fruits and vegetables, we see immediate improvements for families and farmers—and enormous long-term gains for public health, local economies, and the environment. Wholesome Wave’s innovative initiatives serve over half a million under-served consumers, as well as thousands of farmers annually, in 48 states and counting.
Nationally known and respected for its commitment to local farmers, Appalachian Sustainable Development is transitioning Appalachia to a more resilient economy and a healthier population by supporting local agriculture, exploring new economic opportunities and connecting people with healthy food. Since 1995, ASD has served 15 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. As ASD’s work continues, it will expand its focus to include regional partnerships that build important connections to increase market access and bring necessary resources to the rural communities in its physical footprint. ASD operates programs that create jobs in farming and agriculture and address food insecurity.
Gabrielle Langholtz | Wholesome Wave | WholesomeWave.org
Sylvia Crum | Appalachian Sustainable Development | Asdevelop.org