Food waste is a big problem – about one-third of the world’s annual food production goes uneaten, accounting for 8% of global greenhouse emissions. For Americans, that amounts to about $660 of wasted food per person. There are a lot of old-fashioned tricks to reduce food waste – from meal planning to purchasing imperfect produce. But technology can play a role, too. Here are just a few of the apps that are helping people reduce food waste from their workplaces and homes.
For people who want to make a difference beyond their own kitchens, Food Rescue Hero is an app that mobilizes volunteers to transport surplus food to those who can use it. The app matches food donations to the appropriate nonprofits, coordinates a last-mile transportation network of volunteers, trains volunteers on food safety, and tracks data and analytics to measure impact on hunger and the environment. Food Rescue Hero launched in Pittsburgh and now operates in 14 cities. If yours isn’t one of them, contact them to find out how to bring Food Rescue Hero to your area.
Too Good To Go helps restaurants and grocery stores sell food at a discount instead of throwing it away at closing time. Individuals use the app to reserve food that would otherwise go to waste from local retailers and restaurants for pickup at the end of the day. Taking advantage of the app requires some flexibility from shoppers, but for starving students and night owls, it can result in some gourmet savings. Founded in 2016 in Copenhagen, Too Good To Go now operates in 17 countries, and is adding cities across America frequently.
Much like Too Good To Go, FoodForAll connects shoppers to nearby restaurants and cafes that have extra meals. Promising that meals are always at least half-off the regular price, FoodForAll does require diners to wait until the final hour before a location closes before picking up their food order, so it works best for people who either eat late or don’t mind eating leftovers the next day. They currently offer more than 200 food sources in New York City and Boston, but you can sign up on their home page to be notified when they expand to your area.
Olio is a sharing app that works much like Too Good To Go and FoodForAll, except connecting neighbors instead of businesses and customers. Whether you can’t keep up with your garden’s bounty or you made too much soup, you can post a photo of your shareable food for others to claim. Post in the Free section to give it away, or in the Made section to sell it.
We notice the food we throw away at home, but the food we don’t eat when we’re away from home is a big part of the food waste problem. As much as 12% of food waste may be generated in the hospitality sector. Foodprint Group is a woman-owned company whose apps are used by hotels and other hospitality businesses to reduce food waste. Their resources help food service providers perform waste audits, make better purchasing decisions, and develop front- and back-of-house programs to reduce waste.
Goodr is a Black-owned waste management and hunger relief company that grew out of a local initiative to feed people experiencing food insecurity in Atlanta. Today, Goodr partners with companies across the country to provide the technology and logistical support to track and donate surplus food while earning charitable tax benefits. Their solutions include food pantries and pop-up grocery stores in food-insecure neighborhoods, meal deliveries, and student snack packs.
Food Rescue US is another app that engages volunteers to transfer fresh food surpluses from local businesses to social service agencies serving the food insecure. Because the food never needs to be warehoused, it helps get perishables and prepared foods to the people who need them most. Volunteers can “adopt” a routine food rescue or sign up whenever they have time to make a delivery. Food Rescue US operates in 40 locations in 20 states and the District of Columbia. If they haven’t come to your area yet, visit their Launch a Site page to learn how to bring Food Rescue US to your community.
If you want to get your own house in order before you start volunteering, Save the Food has a suite of web-based tools to help you. The Guest-imator helps you estimate how much food to make for a gathering; Meal Prep Mate helps you create your shopping list and meal plans; the Interactive Storage Guide has encyclopedic knowledge on how to store food best, how long it should stay there, and even how to use it if it’s a little past its prime.
Feature image: szmuli – stock.adobe.com
Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment, the arts and family. See more of her writing here.
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