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‘Ugly produce’ trend may have limits, as grocers end tests

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Candice Choi and Scott McFetridge, The Associated Press


Published Thursday, February 21, 2019 4:04PM EST

URBANDALE, Iowa — Is the “ugly produce”‘ trend already reaching the end of its shelf life in supermarkets?

Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it’s not quite the right size, shape or colour. But the two chains and others quietly ended their tests, suggesting dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing in stores where better looking fruits and vegetables are on display.

“Customers didn’t accept it as much as we had hoped,” said Mona Golub of Price Chopper, a grocery chain in the Northeast that also discontinued its offering of ugly produce.

Still, some stores and home delivery startups haven’t given up on the idea of selling less-than-perfect produce to reduce food waste and say they’re doing well.

At a Hy-Vee store in Iowa, a recent display of “Misfits” produce included packs of apples, lemons and oranges that were either too big or small, or otherwise substandard in appearance. A sign explained that “6 million pounds of fresh produce goes unused each year,” though the packages didn’t specify why the produce might have otherwise been thrown away.

“I like the cost savings and it is good to help and not throw so much away,” said shopper Brian Tice, who bought a pack of small oranges.

Another shopper, Jamie Shae, said she didn’t realize there was anything special about the fruit.

“I happened to see the bags of lemons,” said Shae, who was in a rush and grabbed two bags.

Shopper Joan Hitzel, who was browsing other produce nearby, said she thought the Misfits were a good idea given the tons of food that gets thrown away, but didn’t plan to buy any that day.

The supplier of the Misfits produce to supermarkets, Robinson Fresh, said about 300 grocery locations still sell the fruits and vegetables, including the Hy-Vee stores. Kroger also said it still plans to introduce its “Pickuliar Picks” this spring.

But among other regional chains that have stopped carrying ugly produce are Meijer in the Midwest, Hannaford based in Maine and Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, which cited “inconsistent customer interest” for pulling the plug on its “Produce with Personality.”

Walmart no longer offers the damaged “I’m Perfect” apples it introduced in Florida in 2016.

The efforts channeled growing interest in reducing food waste. Government agencies say the best way to reduce waste is to stop producing too much food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 31 per cent of the 430 billion pounds of the nation’s food supply goes uneaten. That does not include the fruits and vegetables that get tossed at the farm level, before foods reach stores.

For fruits and vegetables that don’t meet supermarket standards, some may get processed for products like juices and some go to food banks. Startups delivering ugly produce say there’s so much they’re not taking from food banks.

Shopper preferences may not be the only challenge for ugly produce in supermarkets.

“Retailers really prize their produce sections,” said Imperfect Produce CEO Ben Simon, whose company had partnered with Whole Foods on a test at the chain. Grocers might worry that cheaper produce will cannibalize sales of regular produce, or give off a bad image, he said.

Delivery startups say they’re seeing interest in their services. But they are up against shoppers who inspect the fruits and vegetables they buy and those who worry about all the packaging.

“I’ve been food shopping online, and I started thinking about all the boxes, all that cardboard,” said Nyasha Wilson, a New York City resident who carefully selects apples for ripeness at a farmer’s market.

The companies say they might at least change shoppers’ views on discarded produce. Evan Lutz, CEO of the startup Hungry Harvest, said most of it is just too small or slightly discolored.

“The vast majority that would go to waste isn’t really that ugly,” he said.

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LIFESTYLES

Nobody would give this teen with autism a job, so he started a business

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A 17-year-old Australian teen with autism started his own business cleaning garbage bins after he was rejected for other jobs.

“I searched and applied for jobs for two years and did not get one interview,” Clay Lewis told CTV News Channel from his home in Brisbane, Australia.

As of January, his business, Clay’s Bin Cleaning, has made more than AUS$6,000 and has roughly 70 clients.

He charges AUS$10 for the first bin and AUS$5 for each additional bin. He regularly offers free bin cleaning to local charities.

“I’m very proud of him,” his mother Laura Lewis told CTV News Channel. “I knew that he could do it.”

She added that employers were unable to “see past their own judgments” and made “unfair assumptions” about Clay’s competency because of his disability.

Clay said that he is looking forward to attending his high school prom and may put some of his earnings toward funding a trip to Abu Dhabi to watch his first Formula 1 race.

Lewis said that Clay’s story has given hope to a lot of people, particularly parents of children with autism.

“All Clay is doing is living a 17-year-old’s ordinary life: working, going to school, having a girlfriend and hanging out with friends,” she said.

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Meet Jelly Bean, the deaf canine contender for World’s Most Amazing Dog title

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CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV London’s Sacha Long


Published Friday, February 22, 2019 7:50PM EST

A deaf Ontario dog is in the semi-finals of the World’s Most Amazing Dog competition, an interactive Facebook Watch show where dogs compete for a US$100,000 prize.

Jelly Bean, a three-year-old Australian cattle dog who lives in London, Ont., can catch and pass a ball with his front paws and jump on a stranger’s back. He follows the instructions of his handler, Melissa Mellitt, by sight because cannot hear.

“He is so highly intelligent,” Mellitt told CTV London. “He has no idea that he’s deaf. He doesn’t care. He’s just as happy as any other dog.”

Mellitt adopted Jelly Bean from the Deaf Dog Rescue of America when he was five months old. He has since gone on to travel across Canada as a professional stunt dog and works with Mellitt as an assistant to help rehabilitate fearful dogs.

“We knew that he had this potential,” she said. “This is exactly what I knew he was going to be.”

Mellitt hopes that Jelly Bean’s performance in the competition will help shatter some of the stigma around deaf dogs, who are often believed to be ill tempered and incapable of being trained. Mellitt said breeders euthanize many of them at birth, but she believes that Jelly Bean’s inability to hear is his “cool factor.”

If Jelly Bean wins the competition, Mellitt said that she plans to give half of the winnings to the Deaf Dog Rescue of America.

Viewers of the World’s Most Amazing Dogs competition get to vote on who should move to the finals.

“I think he could go all the way,” Mellitt said.

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Funeral held for sailor in V-J Day Times Square kiss photo

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NEWPORT, R.I. — The sailor photographed kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II was mourned Friday at a funeral in Rhode Island.

George Mendonsa’s funeral was held at St. Mary’s Church in Newport, and he was buried at St. Columba Cemetery in Middletown.

Mendonsa died Sunday after he fell and had a seizure at an assisted living facility, his daughter said. He was 95 and leaves behind his wife of 72 years.

Mendonsa kissed Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945, known as V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered.

The two had never met.

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of the kiss became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. First published in Life magazine, it’s called “V-J Day in Times Square,” but is known to most as “The Kiss.”

Another photographer, Victor Jorgensen, who was in the Navy, also captured the moment in a similar photo. The moment has been shared widely and is often seen on posters.

Several people later claimed to be the kissing couple, and it was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple.

Mendonsa enlisted in the Navy in 1942, after high school. He served on a destroyer during the war.

Mendonsa was on leave when the end of the war was announced. When he was honoured at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, Mendonsa said Friedman reminded him of nurses on a hospital ship that he saw care for wounded sailors.

On Monday, a statue depicting the kiss in Sarasota, Florida, was vandalized. The phrase “.MeToo” was spray-painted on the leg of the statue.

Friedman said in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project that it wasn’t her choice to be kissed.

“The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,” she told the Library of Congress.

She added, “It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”

Friedman fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old girl. She died in 2016 at age 92 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from complications of old age.

After the war, Mendonsa became a commercial fisherman, like his father, and worked until he was 82. He died two days before his 96th birthday.

Survivors include his wife, Rita; and his children, Ronald Mendonsa and Sharon Molleur, and their families.

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