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Selling produce gets 'ugly' in Cleveland

Forest City Weingart hopes to increase the people of Cleveland's access to fresh produce through the sale of 'ugly' fruits and vegetables.

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Despite having a large produce terminal and several vegetable farms in Northern Ohio, fresh produce can be tough to come by for many in Cleveland. A recent study found that only 25 percent of Cleveland’s residents have access to fresh produce within walking distance. But now, produce wholesaler Forest City Weingart hopes to change all that with a produce delivery service called Perfectly Imperfect.

Forrest City Weingart works in this “huge warehouse with all this fresh food that wasn’t accessible to the public” says Ashley Weingart, the company’s Marketing Director. This is the Cleveland Produce Terminal, a massive bounty of fresh produce that is located in a food desert.

 “Venture out and it's all bars on windows and corner stores with bad food choices” Weingart said. That is where Perfectly Imperfect hopes to step in and change things. The service, which started in early May, offers the community the chance to walk right up to the warehouse on Fridays to pick up boxes of imperfect fruits and vegetables.

Sold at approximately a 40 percent discount of what regular produce costs in a grocery store, customers can also have their boxes of perfectly good, but imperfect, fruits and veggies delivered, within the Cuyahoga County surrounding Cleveland. Forrest City Weingart created a relationship with a local courier, who is on board with the mission and ships for a small additional fee to receive delivery. 

Weingart also recently started a partnership with the City of Cleveland’s Healthy Cleveland initiative to get more healthy produce to Clevelanders by distributing Perfectly Imperfect boxes at community centers in the City. The partnership will also help source perfectly imperfect to corners stores and markets in areas with little access to fresh produce right now.

As a produce distributor, Forrest City Weingart ships in produce from all over the world and then sells that produce to Ohio grocers and food service companies. It already donates 100,000 pounds of produce per year of imperfect and surplus produce to food banks. They also aim to increase overall sales of produce for their farmer suppliers with the venture into imperfect boxes.

With their existing base of customers, Weingart says that they also hope to be selling Perfectly Imperfect in local supermarkets. There is plenty of opportunity as growers will often say things to Weingart like “I have these cantaloupes that aren't perfect what can you do?” or “I have oranges with small scars on the peel.” Now, thanks to Perfectly Imperfect, they have a potential solution.

The boxes typically include oranges, zucchini, squash, potatoes, and other produce. In addition to the imperfect produce, the company also includes some surplus produce. Perfectly Imperfect also has the potential to ship outside the County.

This article first appeared at Food Tank.

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