The Produce Project: Day 4

I recently worked at a supermarket produce department for three months, an endeavor I’ve dubbed “The Produce Project.” On the first day of work, I got right into the action by tossing more than 50 pounds of “sell-by” date casualties and watching some computer training videos.  

Culled Red Pepper My fourth day began with more culling. As I pulled out tomatoes, potatoes and peppers, I thought about how strange it all was. A fruit or vegetable can be 95 percent perfect, but that one bad spot dooms produce to the dumpster. 

I knew that the produce I’d culled was headed to the dumpster, but before this day I hadn’t actually thrown it away. Having to dispose of all that mostly good produce didn’t feel so great. When I was alone, I began setting some stuff aside on the grass next to the dumpster in the hopes that someone might take it home. Upon returning to the dumpster, I’d often find that items had disappeared.

I watched yet another training video that warned of the “bacteria danger zone”–41 to 135 degrees F. It specifically mentioned cut melons as items that needed immediate refrigeration. After that, I made a point to get these into the refrigerated wall first when re-stocking, imagining them rotting from storeroom to shelves. 

On this day, I learned that produce makes up about 10 percent of a store’s sales. That figure was a bit higher than I’d imagined. I also found that shoppers were surprised to see me open two boxes of strawberries, cull the rotting fruit and combine them into one box. There seems to be an illusion that wrapped produce is untouched. Not so. In fact, sometimes we’d pull out the bad strawberries without adding new ones.

Finally, I had to laugh when I witnessed how management views its employees. Two supervisors entered the small office as I was watching a training a video. “Is that the new guy?” one asked, wondering if I was the new management trainee.

“No, that’s produce.”

Just don’t cull me.

This entry was posted in Supermarket, The Produce Project. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.