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Raley's Offers 'Imperfect' Produce To Reduce Food Waste

Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Imperfect plums, pears and red bell peppers at a Raley's in Sacramento.

Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Raley’s supermarkets are experimenting with a new way to reduce food waste. It's selling "imperfect" produce.

At the entrance of a Raley's in Sacramento a large display of slightly unusual peppers, plums and pears are on sale.

Meg Burritt is Raley’s Director for Wellness and Sustainability. She points at a bin of red bell peppers.

“So, there’s nothing wrong with these except they’re a little bit big, which to me seems like an advantage, as opposed to a challenge," says Burritt.

Burritt picks up one of the red plums on sale for 99 cents per pound.

"There’s a little bit of limb rub on them you can see how the skin is slightly discolored," she says. "That’s just because when it was growing on the tree it rubbed against a limb which is a natural occurrence. But, typically this would be edited out of the supply chain."

She says some imperfect produce, or what she calls "uglies," is funneled to food banks, but a lot is tossed in landfills.

Shopper Sharron Deming picks up a plum.

"I can’t tell the difference," says Deming.

Kelly Lewis agrees.

"If they were over there I wouldn't probably bat an eye," says Lewis.

"Over there" refers to the regular perfect plums offered at twice the price.

The imperfects will be sold for the next three months at 10 Raley's stores in northern and central California.

The selected stores are all within a half mile of a USDA defined food desert in hopes of reaching consumers who couldn't usually afford produce.

If there's customer demand the company plans to expand the effort.