The Ugly Food Group: the Durham social enterprise fighting food poverty and waste

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In the UK, 70% of fruit and vegetables is thrown away, with 40% of them being wasted on aesthetics alone.A Durham based student-run group has committed itself to helping food insecure families get access to produce that would have otherwise gone to waste.

The Ugly Fruit Group is a Durham student social enterprise that tackles food poverty and waste in the North-East. Since 2019, the organisation has redistributed leftover or surplus fresh produce to food banks across County Durham, including the Durham Student Union Foodbank.

Durham and Brandon Food Banks praises the group’s effort. “It’s always fun to see what turns up. As a food bank, we provide families and individuals with three days’ worth of nutritionally balanced meals. To safely meet the needs of our clients, all our food is either tinned or packaged, so it’s really nice to be able to offer a selection of fruit and veg as well. Many of our families greatly appreciate this.”

Any food not donated to a food bank is used to create new products that they sell in local stores and at eco-festivals, such as Robinson’s and Greenspace.

The Ugly Fruit Group have collectively saved 2,839 kg of fruit and vegetables worth 6,725 meals since 2019, and have prevented 3,823 kg of CO2 emissions.

The Ugly Fruit Group’s effort also aims at educating the community on food waste. Amy Jiang, the current Co-Project Leader of the enterprise, helps organise educational events for Year 5 and Year 6 students in County Durham. The students create leaflets or posters to educate people about food waste using different designs of ugly fruit and vegetables.

“It’s always fun to see what turns up”

Durham and brandon food banks

The Ugly Fruit Group is part of Enactus, an organisation that invests in students who take entrepreneurial action for others. The more than 72,000 students involved have opportunities to partner with organisations to promote collaboration and innovation. Enactus groups are involved in fighting world hunger, combating climate change, plastic reduction and ocean conservation.

Enactus also holds competitions where teams present the impact their entrepreneurial projects have had on their communities. As part of Enactus Durham, The Ugly Fruit Group recently attended the Enactus UK Finals and received first place.

The team won £2000 for Enactus Durham courtesy of Ford Motor Group, an Enactus sponsor. Amy Jiang said, “These funds can be used both to further all our projects as well as potentially aid in financing our trip to Utrecht in October for the World Finals!”.  

There are many ways to get involved with The Ugly Food Group, whether it be by volunteering to collect or transport produce or donating fruits and vegetables. The group is always looking for more help and you can join their mailing list to keep up to date with all their events.

Image: The Ugly Fruit Group

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