Imperfect Produce Has a Place

Ashley Weingart makes sure her three young children eat healthy foods, and now she’s working to help other families have access to them.

Weingart’s husband is part of the fourth generation of family-owned wholesalers, Forest City Weingart Produce in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood, which was founded in 1900. A year ago, she joined the company and noticed that much of the produce that came in, despite being perfectly edible, was aesthetically the wrong size, shape, or color for the eye-catching appeal that grocery stores wanted, so these oddball fruits and vegetables ended up in landfills.

“I started to see how much came in the door that was considered imperfect, and become aware that 40% of the food grown in our country isn’t eaten,” she says. “Our warehouse is in this neighborhood in need, and here we have this huge warehouse. Perfectly Imperfect was my little dream and became my little project.” Perfectly Imperfectly Produce diverts imperfect food from landfills to consumers at a low cost. Anyone who wants to order a box can order two sizes on its website. On Fridays, customers pick up orders at the warehouse, or have them delivered for an extra fee. Weingart is working to establish pickup points at churches and community recreation centers to make the boxes more accessible.

Although the business just launched in May, Weingart has big plans. She’s formed a partnership with the City of Cleveland’s Healthy Cleveland program to stock the blemished produce in corner stores that carry mostly unhealthy foods. She’s started conversations with area grocers, such as Dave’s Market, about selling the imperfect produce in bulk to them.

She’d like to have an event featuring local celebrity chefs using the food. And she’s launched a spinoff program, From Seed to Spoon, to talk to kids about where food comes from.

“Back at the turn of the 19th century when our company was founded, people were growing their own food,” Weingart says. “When you know [the] time and effort and water it takes, you’re more willing to embrace imperfections and less willing to throw out something because it has a spot on it,” she says. “[Today], consumers decide what they need based on what they see in magazines as the perfect pepper or apple. But I think it’s just a matter of time before there’s more awareness about how much food is thrown away. I think it’s a growing trend.”

Visit PerfectlyImperfectProduce.com to learn more about the Perfectly Imperfect Produce.