The Produce Project

In researching wasted food, I’ve spoken with supermarket spokespeople and executives who cling to the party line: ‘We really don’t waste much.’ Yet, I’ve also seen stores donate shopping carts full of unsellable but edible food while on food recovery runs. Imagine what happens at stores without established donation programs.

To move past grocery stores’ rhetoric on the amount of food they throw away, I decided to get a first-hand look. I would work in a supermarket produce department.

In addition to learning just how much product is squandered, I wanted to understand why an industry with minute profit margins and advanced software systems still throws out tons of food each year.

Calling it “The Produce Project” makes it sound a bit more scientific or glamorous than it was. In reality, I was working an entry level job at a large chain. Even still, it was a bit of an adventure and I learned something new every day. Check back tomorrow, when I’ll start detailing my experiences.

But first, just a few quick notes on my methods. I’m writing in the past tense because I’m no longer in the employ of this supermarket that will remain nameless. In total, I worked there for about three months. While there, I didn’t approach work as a journalist digging dirt, but as a produce associate washing it from lettuce. I worked diligently–as my one-month review attested–observed plenty and jotted notes on break or after work. In between, I restocked a lot of bananas.

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