2020 Insights: Produce accessibility and boosting sales

The painful paradox of food waste is the existence of food deserts.

One organization, Wholesome Wave, based in Bridgeport, CT, is striving to make a dent in both.

One of its programs, Practically Perfect, works with suppliers and produce auctions to resell less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables to retailers, where it’s then heavily discounted for customers.

Three locations of the Food City discount chain and some Country Fresh Stop in the Appalachia area have joined the cause with cucumbers, green bell peppers, and yellow squash as the top three bestselling commodities.

“Retailers are interested,” says Julie Peters, director of programs for Wholesome Wave, “but it hasn’t taken off as fast as we wanted because there’s less imperfect produce available than we thought.” Which seems to be good news and bad news at the same time.

A previous SNAP (the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefit doubling effort enjoyed better success.

Spearheaded by Wholesome Wave and mostly small retailers, Peters says participants further helped increase sales by moving fruit and vegetables closer to the front of the store. A different program in the Los Angeles area involving two community groups, with Target as the retail partner, also resulted in a noticeable bump in produce sales.

Another program revolves around Produce Prescriptions, with healthcare providers prescribing produce and retailers helping low-income consumers purchase these items with special gift cards or other in-store incentives.

Wholesome Wave currently works with Walmart as the program’s primary partner.

This is a multi-part series adapted from the January 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints, featuring a variety of experts predicting what will be top of mind in 2020.