An ugly tomato is still a tomato.

There's a push in Trenton to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste and give a second chance to fruits and vegetables that don't look as perfectly as the rest of the crop.

Erin Vogt, Townsquare Media
Erin Vogt, Townsquare Media

About a third of the world's food goes to waste, often because of its ugly looks, according to a March article in National Geographic. That's enough to feed two billion people, it said.

A resolution to be introduced Thursday by a pair of Republican Assembly members, Parker Space and Gail Phoebus, calls on the state to find ways to use imperfect produce as an economical source of food, instead of leaving it to rot in a field.

“Moms care about appearance when buying fruits and vegetables for the family table,” said Space, who runs a farm when he's not at the Statehouse. “A percentage of farm crops won’t make it to retail markets because they don’t meet the standards. They don’t look good enough. Despite the cosmetic flaws, this produce tastes identical and contains all the same nutritional benefits.”

He noted baby-cut carrots, popular in lunchboxes today, were invented decades ago as a productive use for full-size carrots that didn't meet the visual standard for retail sale.

Space and Phoebus said ugly fruits and veggies can be put to good use in school cafeterias and other locations where the produce can be pared down for salads, soups and smoothies. Or, if consumers are willing to adapt, there's still a spot for inglorious produce in local supermarkets.

Karen Meleta, a spokeswoman for ShopRite, said the main focus of produce is its quality and freshness.

"Clearly if something comes in and it's too bruised, then that affects the quality of it," Meleta said. "There's plenty of odd-shaped vegetables that are on the shelves."

And there's "very little" that's just thrown away when taken off the retail floor, Meleta said. The supermarket chain has composting and food bank relationships in place to reduce waste and assist the local community.

Pointing to "tremendous food waste" around the globe, state Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher said there are avenues in place, such as food processing, for imperfect produce.

And $100,000 is allocated through the State Food Purchase Program, he said, to gleaning organizations that gather harvest leftovers and donate them to local food banks.

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