Have you ever noticed that fruits and vegetables at the grocery store all look the same? When you buy apples, you pick from an overflowing display of perfectly round, bright red apples. All the potatoes are identical shape and size. Most produce is blemish-free, as well as brightly and uniformly colored.
Our country's food system values cosmetic perfection as an indicator for high quality. As a result, fruits and vegetables that are a bit too big, small, or wonky-shaped end up in landfills, even though they have the exact same taste and nutritional value as perfect produce.
Two Duke seniors were particularly angered by this expectation of perfection, and they are no longer accepting the fact that perfectly good produce goes to waste for no valid reason. Courtney Bell and Anya Ranganathan recently launched Ungraded Produce, an online subscription-based produce delivery service.
What should you know about Ungraded Produce?
Ungraded’s unconventional sourcing method rescues produce that ordinarily ends up in landfills. The Duke duo personally delivers produce to each customers’ doorsteps. The produce is too big, too small, or too misshapen for sale in grocery stores, so Ungraded delivers it at a 30 to 50 percent discount.
The idea came about when Anya and Courtney were interning in Durham and Detroit, respectively, the summer after their sophomore years. Through community listening sessions hosted by the Durham Mayor’s Office, Anya learned that people really wanted access to fresh, high quality, affordable produce. With inspiration from food waste initiatives in Europe, they came up with their business idea—to decrease the price of produce while solving the problem of food waste. It’s a win-win-win for customers, suppliers, and the environment.
Why should you sign up?
Ungraded Produce is affordable, convenient, and sustainable. Anya believes, “Ungraded is the best way to buy produce. Every person who buys our produce is making the statement that they are no longer accepting the fact that all of this is going to waste for no reason at all.”
As for the future, Ungraded Produce is here to stay–despite the fact that both women are graduating. Courtney will be working on the company full-time to advance efforts to establish density in Durham, the Triangle area, and eventually throughout North Carolina.
“We want to prove to people that high quality produce is not a matter of appearance—it’s a matter of taste and nutritional content,” says Anya. “Just because something looks a certain way doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.”
How can you sign up?
To learn more, check out Ungraded’s website and Facebook page. If you’re interested in opening your door to a box of oddly-shaped produce, sign up for their summer subscription, starting May 27. They deliver 5 lb, 10 lb, and 15 lb boxes directly to Duke’s campus. If you live in a dorm, the fruit box is a great option for you! Plus, if you sign up and refer your friends, you and your friend will each receive $5 off your order.