Six billion pounds of produce are wasted due to “imperfections.” Supermarkets reject fruits and veggies that are unique in size, shape or color to meet consumer demand for perfection. That’s where Ashley Weingart & Perfectly Imperfect Produce come in. PIP’s mission is to reduce food waste and improve healthy food access for all. PIP offers a weekly home delivery subscription program that brings fresh (and perfectly imperfect) produce directly to your door (in the Cleveland area). On top of donating produce to local food pantries for every box purchased, PIP also offers a plethora of other services. Read more about those, here.
Haley Mills: How did the idea for Perfectly Imperfect Produce come about?
Ashley Weingart: In 2015 I was asked to work as the Director of Communications and Community Outreach for my family's 100-year old wholesale produce business. As a result I had the pleasure of visiting farms throughout the country where I saw entire fields of vegetables go unharvested simply because they were off color, too large, or too small for many or because supply did not match demand. I also witnessed first hand large grocery chains rejecting produce and sending it back to us because it didn't look beautiful enough for their standards. I saw neighborhoods in need right in our own backyard where people didn't have enough fresh fruits and vegetables (or enough food period) to feed their family. I wanted to do something to reduce the waste I saw in the food industry and to help feed people who don't have enough fresh food.
HM: What made you act on the idea to start Perfectly Imperfect Produce?
AW: Perfectly Imperfect was never supposed to be a business. It was a simple program that was designed to help our community eat better and our family's produce business reduce waste. I was already in the process of building a website for our family's wholesale business when I decided to give this idea a try. We decided to go ahead and create a separate page for the program and then it began to take on a life of it's own. The very first week we launched local and national news media began contacting us to learn more.
HM: What does a typical (or not so typical) day in your life look like?
AW: Over the weekend I begin putting my feelers out to farmers and wholesalers to see what produce they have that they need help moving. On Mondays I pull orders to see how many orders we have and spend a pretty decent amount of time organizing them to ensure we meet all our customers needs. Then I share them with our logistics/delivery folks so they can begin preparing for the week's deliveries. On Tuesdays, I visit wholesalers to purchase produce and drive our truck to local farms to pickup our purchases. It's all placed in our cold storage at Produce Packaging, Inc. where we package our boxes out of. On Wednesdays we pack up hundreds of boxes with the help of several people at PPI. They are placed in the fridge over night. Aubrey, our Recipe Developer, picks up produce and creates a unique recipe to share with our customers via our blog on Thursday. Very early on Thursday mornings PPI transports a truckload full of our boxes to our delivery company Clockwork Logistics who divides them into the proper routes and distributes them to homes and offices across Northeast Ohio. Then Thursday we go back and do it again with our organic boxes. Friday those go out. I spend a lot of time those days ensuring all deliveries arrive properly at our customers homes. Friday is a good day for paying bills, meetings, planning, etc. and then we do it ALL over again. ;)
HM: What's your favorite thing about owning a small business in this area?
AW: I have always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. I love leading a cause about which I am passionate. It is pretty awesome to see something change from a dream and a vision to a reality. And to be helping people eat healthier and live a healthy, happy life all while improving the world around us feels really good.
HM: Where did you grow up?
AW: I've made my way around the Midwest. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska but moved to Pittsburgh in 3rd grade where I lived through high school. I attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where I studied Journalism. After that I moved to Chicago where I worked in advertising.
HM: What brought you to the area?
AW: My boyfriend (now husband and father of my three children) convinced me to move to Cleveland in 2002. Lots of eyebrows were raised, but I knew exactly what I was doing. Cleveland has been home now for 16 years. It is such a great place to live!
HM: What is your favorite thing about Cleveland?
AW: It's hard to pick just one. One of my favorites is the Cleveland Metroparks. We live across the street from South Chagrin Reservation. I can literally walk across the street and be on the trails where I go to run. It's amazing how when I'm there I feel like I'm so far away from everything, but I'm literally across the street from my home.
HM: Where is your favorite place to get a meal in Cleveland?
AW: Wow. Well I love to eat and drinking wine could probably be considered one of my hobbies. My Italian blood runs strong, so I'm always game for a hearty bowl of pasta. Flour in Moreland Hills is one of my go tos.
HM: Where is your favorite place in Cleveland to be?
AW: In my backyard on a late summer evening, campfire burning, Zac Brown on the speakers, kids playing hide and seek in the yard, adult beverage in hand.