For the media

Crafting meals from ‘unusual but usable’ produce

By The Health News Team | May 17, 2019
Crafting meals from ‘unusual but usable’ produce

Before and after “imperfect produce” is made into delicious dishes in Sharp’s Mindful Cafés.

Ever see a funky-looking carrot or a misshapen pear in the produce section of your local grocery store? If your answer is no, you’re not alone. Most grocery stores only put their best looking produce on display.

Now, companies like FreshPoint partner with organizations like Sharp HealthCare to use slightly blemished fruits and vegetables to prepare nutritious and delicious meals.

Three years ago, FreshPoint introduced the Unusual But Usable (UBU) Fruits & Veggies Program, which partners with produce growers to divert “ugly” produce from the waste stream and share it with customers who will use it — customers like Sharp.

“Six billion pounds of fresh, imperfect produce goes unsold each year,” says Don Carl, director of environmental health and workplace safety at Sharp HealthCare. “Through this program, we are able to purchase produce from farmers often unable to sell it due to these aesthetic imperfections, at a cost of about 30% less-than-perfect produce.”

Because most of the produce that comes into Sharp kitchens is chopped, sliced or otherwise used in a recipe, the UBU program is a great way to reduce costs and food waste.

“The produce may be misshapen, blemished or scarred, but it’s fully usable for dicing, blending, juicing or processing,” says Crystal Olson, senior area general manager of Food and Nutrition Services for the Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus. “It also follows the same quality assurance, traceability and food safety standards as all other produce.”

In the first year of participation, Olson — then general manager for Food and Nutrition Services at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center — purchased more than 20,000 pounds of less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables that are healthy, nutrient-rich and full of flavor, but which would previously have been thrown away.

The UBU program has since expanded to Sharp Coronado, Sharp Mesa Vista, Sharp Memorial and Sharp Grossmont.

Lauren Blacker, district manager for Food and Nutrition Services at Sharp HealthCare, says another benefit of the UBU program is it helps local farmers grow their bottom line.

“Normally, growers are asked to put out the very best in terms of market desirability,” says Blacker. “Until now, produce with small imperfections has always been a loss for them — now, it’s a win-win.”

For the news media: To find out more about how Sharp uses “imperfect produce” to produce delicious meals, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at


Don Carl


Don Carl is the director of environmental health and workplace safety for Sharp HealthCare. Don and his safety team assist unit leaders in the development of employee injury/illness prevention initiatives.


Lauren Blacker


Lauren Blacker is a district manager for Food and Nutrition Services at Sharp HealthCare.

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