How Ugly, Unloved Food Can Change the World – Dana Cowin

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In this 2015 TEDxManhattan talk, Food & Wine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin explains how ugly fruits and vegetables – produce that doesn’t look perfect – can go a long way to helping end the massive problem with food waste.

Video Length: 00:08:21

  • About Dana Cowin

    Editor in Chief Food & Wine

    Dana Cowin, Food & Wine’s editor in chief since 1995, is one of America's foremost authorities on food, wine, style and design. Cowin oversees the Food more.

Publications & Reports


TEDxManhattan Highlights 2015

11 Beautiful Ugly Foods

TEDxManhattan Heroes: Dana Cowin


  • American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of its Food (and What We Can Do About It), Jonathan Bloom, Da Capo Press, 2011.
    Featuring interviews with experts like Alice Waters and food psychologist Brian Wansink, Jonathan Bloom explores food waste in America and what we can do to reduce waste and save money.
  • The Third Plate, Dan Barber, Penguin Publishing Group, 2015.
    Dan Barber envisions a world where good farming and good food intersect and urges eaters to imagine a world where our food is as sustainable as it is delicious.
  • Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, Tristram Stuart, Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc, 2009.
    A freegan, one who lives off of discarded or self­produced foods, Stuart explores the global food waste crisis and through investigation and data, shows what we can do to tackle the problem.

Reports & Studies


Discussion Questions

  • Do you think our culture has an obsession with beautiful food? Explain.
  • Have you ever eaten something you thought was ugly, misshapen, or imperfect? What was it and how did it taste?
  • How much food do you waste in your own kitchen? Do you tend to throw ‘imperfect’ food away or overlook it at the market? How could you change that?
  • What role do chefs play in changing our perception of “ugly” foods?
  • How can we educate people to choose taste over appearance?

Additional Information

  • Project Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Dana Gunders has written several blog posts about food waste and areas where we can reduce waste.
  • Check out Dana’s pre­TEDxManhattan Ecocentric blog post where she discusses ugly foods and why they are so important for the future of food.
  • Part blog, part call to action, Jonathan Bloom’s Wasted Food seeks to report on the global problem of food waste.

Take Action

Things You Can Do

  1. Don’t judge a book by its cover; eat some deliciously ugly foods like monkfish or geoduck. Encourage others to as well by sharing on social media using #LoveUglyFood.
  2. Ask your local grocery store to follow the lead of Intermarche and other grocery retailers and sell ugly produce at a discounted rate, rather than disposing of it.
  3. In honor of Earth Day, Buzzfeed released 34 Ways to Waste Less Food. Try out one of their suggestions.
  4. Use West Coast Climate & Materials Management Forum’s Toolkit to Reduce Household Food Waste.
  5. Compost! See’s compost assistance section.
  6. Go to Change Food’s Tumblr site to share and give us feedback on your experiences.


  •’s @UglyFruitandVeg campaign calls on Walmart and Whole Foods to sell ugly food and end food waste in its stores.
  • Join Feedback Global’s movement and pledge to reduce food waste.
  • Participate in Food & Wine’s #loveuglyfood campaign which launched at TEDxManhattan 2015.