Food Recovery Network founder sheds light on Food Waste and Ugly Produce

Sydney Walker, Staff Writer

Wingate, N.C. – “Food waste is not one problem, but a collection of hundreds of problems that need to be solved–especially if the growing population wants to be fed,” said Ben Simon to Wingate University students. “The only way to feed the estimated 9 billion people in 2050 is to reduce the amount of food waste. Reducing just 15% of food waste could feed 25 million Americans.”

Ben+Simon+Headshot+Nov2013
Photo source: Food Recovery Network

Ben Simon, the CEO of Imperfect and the founder of the Food Recovery Network, first realized how much food was wasted in his college’s cafeteria. “At 9 p.m. just before closing, there would be stations full of food,” Simon said.

Simon asked a friend who worked in the dining hall what happened to all of that food. He found out it was just thrown away. This sparked the Food Recovery Network. The Food Recovery Network “is the largest student movement against hunger and food waste,” Simon said.

It wasn’t until Simon got a segment on the Melissa Perry Harris show that the Food Recovery Network took off. “That day and week we got applications from college students to spread the program to other campuses,” Simon said. “Starting this program locally with friends and growing it to a larger size is one of the greatest experience I’ve ever had.”

Simon said that is the government’s goal to reduce food waste by 50% before 2030. About 40% of food is wasted per year which is about 197 million pounds of produce. Simon said most of this food is wasted on farms because they are too ugly.

“Cauliflower that has a slight yellowing to it from the sun aren’t even considered for market. Heaven forbid the sun shines on produce and gives it a little sun tan,” Simon joked. “Let’s sell some ugly produce and love imperfections.”

Simon’s company Imperfect has about 15,000 to 16,000 subscribers in CA where they originated. The subscribers receive a box of ugly produce to their doorstep.

Simon was a government and politician major in college. He encouraged students to get involved with different student organizations. “I’m doing something completely unrelated to my major because of different student organizations. I found myself through work outside of my major,” he said.

Freshman Erin November said “I found it interesting that he was a government student like myself but changed paths. It makes me think about what I can do to improve situations on campus dealing with food waste and environmental studies.”

Freshman Katie Garrett said “it was very inspiring that he could start his own company at such a young age and be so successful.” Simon said fighting food waste can help with hunger problems. “One in six Americans struggle with food insecurities,” he said.

Garrett said she found the statistics shocking. “We could easily fix our hunger problem if we weren’t concerned with a standard of how things should look in advertising,” she said.

Edited by: Brea Childs

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