South Floridians Go Hungry as Grocery Store Chains Reject "Ugly" Produce

South Floridians Go Hungry as Grocery Store Chains Reject "Ugly" Produce
Photo by Liana Lozada
South Florida is the perfect place to indulge your gastral gluttony. We have endless choices of any cuisine your heart desires. So how is it possible that one in five Floridians go hungry?

A shocking 17 percent of adults and 26.7 percent of children in Florida are food insecure, meaning they lack consistent access to enough nutritious food, according to a recent study.

But Sustainable Supperclub, an organization with the missions of raising awareness about food waste and supporting local charities, is joining forces with Hungry Harvest in an effort to put a dent in those numbers. Together, they are hosting a community feast at Jackson Hall on Friday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., with proceeds benefiting Lotus House Women's Shelter, Debris Free Oceans, Wellness in the Schools and Flipany.

Julie Frans, Director of Community and Culinary at Jackson Hall, says that high prices can put fundraisers out of reach for many. But because the primary purpose of this event is to spur citizens to action, organizers made sure that ticket prices, which begin at $39, are affordable.

“We really want to maximize our impact at a grassroots level, not an elitist level,” Frans says. “We want people to walk out of this dinner with bellies full, but also inspired to get involved more and be able to really make an impact.”

Evan Lutz, founder of Hungry Harvest, will be the guest speaker and is donating the produce for the event. Lutz is best known for striking a deal with Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank, as well as for making Forbes' 30 under 30 list of social entrepreneurs.

Hungry Harvest is a farm-to-door delivery service that specializes in produce "whose only crime is being a little off-size, off-color, a little ugly or a little overproduced.” Instead of letting this less-than-attractive produce go to waste, Hungry Harvest rescues and delivers it to subscribers and charities.

Lutz says that the desire for attractive produce leads to waste and hunger. Each year, 20 billion pounds of produce never makes it to market simply because it is not pretty enough. “A hundred years ago, people bought that produce, but today, our definition of produce is what looks perfect,” he says.

Leading by example, Sustainable Supperclub will feature centerpieces made from “ugly” fruits and vegetables, which will then be donated to Lotus House. That way, food that would have otherwise been wasted will provide nourishment to those in need.

“A grapefruit is too small and Publix doesn’t want it, but it’s perfectly good. Or a zucchini has a little scratch on it... that’s just such a shame,” Jennifer Weinberg, co-founder of Sustainable Supperclub says. She encourages people to help others in their communities by subscribing to Hungry Harvest and requesting that produce be delivered directly to a charity like Lotus House, which serves over 500,000 meals annually.

Constance Collins, Executive Director of Lotus House, couldn’t be more thrilled. Collins says that Lotus House strives to make 90 percent of their meals plant-based, and that produce, ugly or not, offers essential nourishment to women and children who have sometimes gone days without eating.

She adds that the power of fresh, live produce can be transformative, and it is fundamental to the overall well-being of the women and children they serve. “We feed body, mind and soul so that they have a chance to heal and be nurtured, nursed, empowered and uplifted to reclaim their lives and to build again.”

Jackson Hall will offer free parking for the event, which includes a cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres, dinner, gift bags and a raffle. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dining options will be available.

Sustainable Supperclub Community Feast. 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, at Jackson Hall, 1050 NW 14 St., Second Floor, Miami. Tickets cost $39 to $59 via
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Wendy Rhodes is a lover of rock 'n' roll and all things vegan. She has witnessed a green flash, kissed a live shark, and stood atop an active volcano. She is always open to new story ideas.