Fighting Food Waste with Ugly Fruit and Vegetables

by Chris Hunt

Published: 4/21/16, Last updated: 5/24/19

On May 10, GRACE is proud to be joining a coalition of nonprofits, government agencies and civil institutions to host Feeding the 5000 NYC, an event created to raise public awareness about food waste and to highlight solutions to the problem. In preparation for the event, we’ve interviewed several of the leaders in the bourgeoning US food waste reduction movement.

Leading off our food waste hero series is Jordan Figueiredo, founder of and the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign. Based in Castro Valley, California, Jordan is a solid waste specialist, writer and public speaker whose day job involves working with businesses, schools and the community to recycle, compost and reduce solid waste. In his spare time, Jordan serves as a preeminent leader within the anti-food-waste movement and spearheads one of the most influential campaigns to reduce food waste in the US.

Follow Jordan’s work at

Tell us about the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign and what it does to address food waste.

Through fun imagery, news and tips, it engages, educates and inspires people to reduce the 20-40 percent of produce that goes to waste before stores, due to cosmetics, all around the world.

How did you get involved in the food waste issue?

I started by working in the zero waste space and wanted to do more than just compost good food. I got inspired, worked with Dana Gunders on the Zero Food Waste Forum, Tristram Stuart on Feeding the 5000 Oakland and then got hooked on “ugly” produce.

What’s one thing about food waste that you wish more people knew?

That changing our perspective and actions on “ugly” produce could help so many things. “Ugly” produce is cheaper and only 13 percent of Americans eat enough produce. Selling ugly equals selling more produce, increasing health outcomes, reducing waste and easing climate change.

Selling ugly equals selling more produce, increasing health outcomes, reducing waste and easing climate change.

What’s the best way for people to make a difference?

Become aware and do what you can. Compost at home at the very least, try find food waste prevention tips (Dana Gunders’ Waste Free Kitchen Handbook is the Bible there), volunteer for food rescue groups, go gleaning or ask your grocer/market to sell ugly produce.

Do you have a personal favorite food waste reduction technique?

Smoothies! Throw the whole fruit in there. Core, stem, top, etc. You can get to nothing even left to compost!

What’s most exciting to you in the food waste arena? Are there any compelling innovations? Any particularly inspiring food waste solutions?

The amount of attention that continues to be drawn to this issue on all fronts. And Stefanie Sacks’ and my successful petition ( to get Whole Foods Market to change the game and sell ugly produce, starting at the end of April.

Food is currently wasted throughout the supply chain — where is there greatest opportunity for food waste reduction?

To me, the lowest hanging fruit (pun intended) is at the farm. The ReFED Roadmap report estimates that 20 billion pounds of produce is still wasted before stores! Selling “ugly” produce, supporting farm to food banks programs, supporting entrepreneurs to process the produce; there are so many solutions that need more support!

Many other countries have made major strides in reducing food waste; what’s being done well abroad? What are the biggest takeaways?

That reducing food waste can be done. The UK has reduced home food waste something like 20 percent over a number of years. Denmark is doing great things too.

What’s most needed in the food waste reduction space?

More resources and funding dedicated to these challenges and opportunities in the space. We pay someone to landfill food, pay someone to compost food, but expect to pay nothing for someone to rescue food? That has to change if we really want to make a dent with rescue and donation (only 10 percent of good extra food is rescued). And it’s a much better impact (environmentally and socially) than so many other environmental activities requiring much more funding.

Stay up to date with Jordan:



Ugly Fruit and Veg

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