Methodology Behind “What Should You Eat?”

Team Members: Gary Burnett, Jane Coffrin, and Michelle Thomas

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We decided to look into the Food for Free data that was provided to the class. None of us had used this data set for previous projects, so we didn’t know what to expect. After looking through the data we found that 1 in 9 people in Massachusetts are food insecure. We also noticed that while the majority of the comments collected were thanking Food For Free for providing fresh produce, it was the only item that the organization had to spend money purchasing rather than receiving enough in donations. So, we turned to the internet to learn about food insecurity and find a story. From searches, we found learned about ugly produce. Ugly produce are fruits and vegetables with visual imperfections that taste the same, but are not sold in many grocery stores due to appearance. The reality is, one fourth of produce is wasted before it even reaches the store. Most of this waste is due to visual imperfections. In fact, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 52% of all produce is wasted in North America. With all this food waste, you’d think everyone was getting the produce that they need, but according to the Food for Free data, produce is the number one needed and desired food for those who receive donations. Groups like Boston Area Gleaners and Food for Free are rescuing ugly produce and getting it to those who are food insecure.

Most people are unaware of both the amount of produce wasted and the existence of ugly fruits and vegetables. We wanted to tell a story to encourage the sale and purchase of ugly produce. Who decides what qualifies as ugly produce? It turns out the USDA offers Grade Standards for produce based on visual appearance. While these standards are just guidelines, they have been closely followed by the grocery stores who hold the produce they purchase to these high standards. We sorted through the visual guidelines for fruits and vegetables and selected the standards that were only cosmetic (and wouldn’t impact health if consumed). For example, tomatoes with green on them have the potential to be harmful if consumed and aren’t just visually less appealing.

Recently, Whole Foods has started selling ugly produce in some of its California stores at discounted rates (source). If it is successful in California they will start selling ugly produce at all their stores. Knowing Whole Foods was trying to start selling ugly produce, we decided to pretend we were Whole Foods and make an interactive game that could be used and given away at EarthFest. EarthFest is a concert festival in Boston to promote reducing the environmental impact, it is put on by the 92.9 radio station and Whole Foods. We would set up by the Kids Planet stage in order to reach our target audience of families with children (6-18). In making the game we used the USDA visual guidelines to depict food that is grade “U.S. Fancy”, or the highest visual standard, and have kids match them up to food that is graded not fit to sell.