Jordan Figueiredo, a Solid Waste Specialist living in California, is the founder of UglyFruitandVeg.org -- an advocacy campaign to fight food waste worldwide.
He says the United States wastes about 26% of produce before it gets to the store every year. Jordan's work largely involves shifting consumer and business perception around "ugly" produce so that steps can be taken for us to reduce unnecessary food waste and eat more fruits and vegetables.
Motivated to make a big change in the food industry, he launched a Change.org petition in July 2015 asking Whole Foods and Walmart to sell cosmetically “less than perfect” produce.
After securing national press attention on the TODAY Show, gaining support from more than 110,000 consumers, and facilitating a meeting with Imperfect Produce, Jordan scored a major victory earlier this month.
National grocer Whole Foods Market agreed to take a first step in the fight against food waste in the U.S. by launching a pilot program in Northern California to sell "ugly" produce -- cosmetically not-quite-perfect fruits and vegetables -- in April.
I recently had an opportunity to interview Jordan to learn more about his successful campaigning work and what’s next for the movement. Check it out.
Pulin: Why is the issue of food waste so important to you? And why should other people care about it?
Jordan: It's so important because it's the socio-environmental issue of our time! Wasted food impact so many things from the environment to our daily lives to our health to community strength. By reducing wasted food and, eating more fruits and vegetables -- what I focus on with @UglyFruitAndVeg -- we can solve so many problems.
Pulin: Can you give us some background on why you started your initial campaign and how it won?
Jordan: With the attention my @UglyFruitAndVeg Instagram and Twitter accounts receive, I'm always looking for new ways to raise awareness and raise the bar on reducing waste. Asking Whole Foods Market (and Walmart) to sell "ugly" produce was a statement that this so-called ugly produce is really just as good as the store bought stuff and that all large grocers in the U.S. -- from high-end to budget-friendly -- should sell. It won because of so much support from so many people, most notably our 111,600+ signees and Culinary Nutritionist Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN and author of What The Fork Are You Eating, my co-starter on the petition.
Pulin: What strategic value did your Change.org petition bring to this campaign?
Jordan: The Change.org petition made all the difference. Whole Foods would have never spoken to us and considered this shift were it not for the 111,000+ supporters that said they want this to happen. Since those folks supported the petition, we were able to receive a ton of media attention and keep updating our supporters, which only amplified the pressure on Whole Foods. I'm pretty sure that without the petition this would not have happen.
Pulin: Why did you decide to put your focus on Walmart with a new petition?
Jordan: We are focusing now on the new Walmart petition for two reasons:
- Everyone should be able to buy "ugly" and discounted produce everywhere
- Walmart, with over 4,100 stores, could have such a huge positive impact on reducing waste but also on Americans eating healthier as well
Pulin: You also have another petition about the Food Recovery Act. Can you tell us about the response you've received from the public and members of Congress so far?
Jordan: The response on the Food Recovery Act petition with Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland and creator of WastedFood.com, has been very supported by the public. People understand how much we can do (but are not doing yet) to reduce wasted food and feed those in need. The bill could do so much if passed, but Congress doesn't seem to work together on very many things. Reducing waste and feeding those in need should be bi-partisan.
Pulin: What tips do you have for other petition authors who want to leverage Change.org to win campaigns?
Jordan: Try to leverage any support you can find. Ask people with high-traffic social media accounts to share. Pitch media on the story of your petition and why it's important. Use great eye-catching, colorful, and human-connected visuals/graphics to represent your petition and to get it shared. Keep your messaging short and sweet.
It’s nice to see Jordan’s recent success join the many other victories in the food movement on Change.org this year.
Pulin Modi is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org