Our “Practically Perfect” produce campaign launches in Appalachian supermarkets
Appalachian supermarket shoppers will notice something new in the produce aisle this week: “Practically Perfect” fruits and vegetables. 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 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. But while many families struggle to afford fruits and vegetables, farmers find themselves throwing out plenty of perfectly delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables.
That’s barely half of 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 crop. This “imperfect” produce often ends up discarded – even thought it’s delicious and nutritious.
So we partnered with regional non-profit Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) to solve one problem with another. The project won $299,000 in USDA funding. Practically Perfect produce was born.
Launching as a pilot in four supermarkets in southwestern Virginia this week, 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. The Practically Perfect produce, offered at an approximate 30% discount, helps families afford healthy choices while offsetting lost revenue for local farmers.
Dale Craig, Practically Perfect project coordinator, says, “This Practically Perfect produce is a Win-Win –Win: customers are saving money, farmers are making money and we’re reducing 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.
The Practically Perfect selection will rotate over the harvest season based on availability. They are starting with seasonal favorites like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash and cucumbers. The Southwest Virginia launch is only the beginning as we plan to replicate the program from coast to coast.