Waste Not Wednesday: Pressed, not prejudiced, produce

(Editor's note: The number of locations Misfit Juicery is sold wholesale was stated incorrectly in a previous version of this story. The correct number is 50. The updated story is below.)

In a world full of monster-green juices, pricey juice cleanses, and upscale organic juiceries, it can be hard for cold-pressed juice to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Especially you’re a misfit. 

Misfit Juicery is a D.C.-based, cold-pressed juice startup founded by recent Georgetown graduates Philip Wong and Ann Yang. The two friends took an entrepreneurship class together, and after spending a summer in Rwanda, returned with a vision to change the food system for the better. The concept is simple, yet ingenious — make juice, but with ugly produce. Surplus fruits and vegetables bound for the landfill are repurposed into fresh, healthy beverages that are sourced locally. They gather up twisted carrots and dimpled apples to create delicious, aptly named concoctions such as Offbeat and 24CarrotGold.

Their website claims that Misfit “is not a juice company,” instead a socially conscious effort that is packing a punch against food waste. Their main opponent is what Misfit Juice refers to as “produce prejudice,” or our obsession with perfect-10 fruits and vegetables. Consumers, grocery stores, and other retailers are the culprits — their high standards of aesthetic value discriminate against produce that’s been bruised, blemished, or banged up. For some, it may seem ridiculous. We are literally judging food by its cover — color, shape, and size — like it’s some botanical beauty contest. But it’s in our nature. You may have heard the old adage that we “eat with our eyes,” and science has shown that this is largely true; the visual cortex composes a substantial portion of our brains, and visual stimuli can actually affect taste. The downside of this biology is that it leads to perfectly good produce ending up in the trash can.

Misfit Juicery is selling wholesale at 50 different locations in D.C., and was recently named one of "Fifty+ under 50: #foodheroes that transformed DC's food system." “People are psyched about the brand, and I think we want to get our brand and message out to as many people as possible,” co-founder Philip Wong says. “At the same time, I really want Misfit to be not only about the juice, but also about reimagining how people engage with food.”

Although it’s drawn quite a following, co-founder Philip Wong believes that there’s still a long road ahead: “It helps that we’re getting a lot of attention around it, but with the scale of the issue, there’s a lot more to be done.” He cites further that households share the blame in the annual 70 billion pounds of discarded food, and that waste can come from a multitude of sources such as meat consumption. “There’s agricultural waste, food waste in the home, but also something like eating meat is super wasteful. You put so much water and energy into a cow and get 10 percent of the calories out of it. There’s waste all over the food system right now. In terms of what’s going into our food, we’ve still got a long way to go.”

ABOUT THE PROJECT

This is part four of a six-part series. Waste Not Wednesday is a community engagement project created by Ayse Muratoglu, a 2015-2016 Emerging Leader for Food Security for the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Program. The yearlong program takes 10 college sophomores who will work with Land O’Lakes experts to explore issues of food security, and find ways to feed the world. To learn more about the Global Food Challenge, join the conversation at http://foodchallenge.landolakesinc.com/

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