(TRENTON) – A three-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patricia Jones, Bob Andrzejczak, Adam Taliaferro and Eric Houghtaling to help take the stigma out of “ugly foods”, encourage the sale and consumption of blemished, but otherwise suitable foods and help reduce unnecessary food waste was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
Food waste is a major issue in the United States and globally. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, unwanted and discarded food squanders resources, including water, land, energy, labor, and capital. In addition, rotting food waste in landfills creates methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. In order to help reduce food waste, the “ugly food movement” has taken off around the world, particularly in Europe and Australia, where supermarkets successfully sell cosmetically imperfect foods which otherwise may have been thrown out.
“Farmers often discard fruits and vegetables that fall below cosmetic standards, supermarkets and restaurants reject them, and consumers historically have avoided them, even though they are perfectly fine to eat,” said Jones (D- Camden/Gloucester). “This is not only wasteful, but bad for the environment. We must reclaim these foods, and stop contributing to such terrible waste.”
“We need to educate people who may not realize that there are greater consequences to throwing out a fruit or vegetable because it’s not pretty to look at,” said Andrzejczak (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “These efforts can help promote greater public acceptance, use, and consumption of foods that are cosmetically imperfect, but just fine for human consumption.”
“We need to rebrand these foods so consumers will stop associating blemished foods with stuff that is bad and inedible,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Other countries are already tackling this problem. It is time for New Jersey to join the global fight against food waste.”
“We have all had that moment when we’ve picked up a fruit or a vegetable at the supermarket, only to put it back when we see a blemish,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “We need to change the perception that there is something wrong with these foods simply because they are unsightly. The measures in this package can help take the stigma out and normalize these foods.”
The first bill (A-4558), sponsored by Jones, Andrzejczak and Taliaferro, would require the state Department of Agriculture to establish an award program called the “Best Use of Ugly Produce Award.” Ugly produce is defined as any fruit, vegetable or grain that is fresh, undamaged and suitable for human consumption, but does not meet industry-accepted standards for cosmetic appearance.
Under the bill, the department would recognize a person or organization that proposes what is deemed to be the best use of ugly produce or has successfully implemented such use.
The second measure, (AJR-138), sponsored by Taliaferro, Houghtaling and Andrzejczak, would designate the first full week of June of each year as “Ugly Produce Week.” Under the bill, the Governor would be authorized to annually issue a proclamation calling upon public officials and citizens of the state to observe “Ugly Produce Week” with appropriate activities and programs.
The last measure (AR-176), sponsored by Andrzejczak, urges the state Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Education, to develop and promote alternate ways to use cosmetically imperfect fruits and vegetables to help reduce food waste in the state and in the nation.
The bills were released by the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by Andrzejczak. Taliaferro is vice-chair of the committee.