LONG BEFORE the pandemic, Sarah Yerkes had already abandoned the supermarket. The 42-year-old has a demanding job at a Washington, D.C., think tank and two young children; ordering groceries online seemed like a way to keep things relatively sane. But it wasn’t until last year that Ms. Yerkes began a subscription to Imperfect Foods, an online grocer that sells “ugly” fruits and vegetables traditionally considered unmarketable.

Imperfect doesn’t stock everything: Ms. Yerkes still has to place a second online order to fill in the gaps. But each week she orders produce along with staples, snacks and specialty items like truffle butter from Imperfect’s rotating selection, and she returns packaging and cold packs to the delivery person for recycling or reuse. “The main reason I keep using Imperfect is that I feel like I am doing something good by buying products that would otherwise go to waste,” Ms. Yerkes said.

It wasn’t only the need to safely fill empty cupboards that lured grocery shoppers online over the last year; it was also a desire to do something positive in the midst of a terrifying moment. Imperfect Foods and a new generation of “do-good” grocers stepped up.

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