Misfit Produce Campaign
The United States produces some of the largest amounts of food waste in the world. While the country has enough food to feed everyone, nearly half of all food grown, processed, and transported in the United States is wasted. The three largest areas of waste are: farms, consumer-facing businesses, and in homes. About 40% of food waste comes from consumer-facing businesses, totaling about 49 billion pounds, 16 billion of which are produced by grocery stores.
The food production and distribution system generates waste at every stage. In addition to the waste created by grocery stores, another 20 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables never make it to stores- this produce is discarded on farms or left in fields to be plowed under.
A significant factor in deciding what produce makes it to stores and it then purchased has to do with Americans’ idea of “perfect produce”. Eve Turow Paul, the author of A Taste of Generation Yum, attributes the beginning of Americans’ desire for perfect produce to the introduction of refrigeration in the 1940s and the emergence of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG). Perfect, manicured food selections became a symbol of technology and safety. This idea seems to be going strong today- think of Instagram’s foodies and restaurants that cater to “camera cuisine”, dishes tailored to the patron taking pictures of their food.
This project was inspired by the staggering amount of food waste in the United States as a way to combat the negative image of the, perhaps there can be a chance in how grocery stores stock produce. It may be small, but it can still be a piece of the puzzle in helping to reduce food waste.
This project began with illustrations of several of the common food deformities that put people off. Carrots with two 'legs', peppers that haven't changed color all the way, lemons with a funky seam, and cucumbers with lumps and bumps.
Part of the process of this campaign would be pairing with an existing organization that works with food distribution already. For the sake of this project, I selected Feeding America, a non-profit that focuses on feeding everyone in the United States and that has recently turned some attention towards food waste.
As a special section of the Feeding America website, or whichever site this campaign would be partnered with, would be dedicated to these illustrations. Each is paired with a funny saying, lending a narrative to the produce beyond 'buy this' or 'buy that, its fine'. I wanted to approach the problem with more humor than demands. I wanted viewers to feel invited to participate, rather than attacked for not 'doing the right thing'.
Additional information would be provided online that addresses the causes of some of these deformities. For example, carrots often grow in bent shapes or have 'two legs' because there are rocks in the ground they have to grow around and bell peppers change colors as they mature, green peppers are just younger red/yellow peppers. If your pepper is both it's just transitioning between stages!
See more of the illustration and catchphrase below!
The sweet pepper is a tough guy
These carrots are roasting at the beach.
Double mushrooms still love life
And this cucumber and his lemon friend are ready to get down.
To further promote this campaign, I created a variety of billboards. These were to be pretty simple, focusing on the illustrations and directing viewers to the website where the rest of the information lives.
Some billboards have a 'group shot' of the characters, while others feature one character, similar to the way they are displayed online.
Don't forget next time you go to the grocery store, just because that fruit looks funky, does't mean that you can't eat it! The Misfit Produce Campaign is just one idea to encourage people to explore their food options and help reduce waste. There is more than enough food in the Unites States to feed everyone- but so much is wasted that those in most need of it often do not get any. Perhaps a campaign like this one won't fix all the problems, but I hope it inspires some humor and other creative approaches to encouraging consumers to make the most of the produce they have!
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