App applies power of networking to reduce food waste

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Plunk down $6 at a fast-food restaurant, and you you may get a small burger, fries and drink, but you’re also paying for something else. Two dollars of your bill went to pay for that burger that spent too long in the warmer or those fries that went stale and wound up in the trash.

It’s a sad reality that, worldwide, a third of our food winds up in the garbage. Meanwhile, what your mother told you is true -- there are children starving in Africa who would love to eat those brussels sprouts you left on your plate.

New smartphone apps won’t help feed those children overseas, immediately at least, but it is already cutting food waste in Europe, which could free up dollars for those who want to help third-world countries.

The most popular app, “Too Good To Go,” uses a phone’s GPS to notify the user of nearby businesses that have extra food for sale at the end of the day, and what they’re offering at a discount.

Heading home after work, the user may be able to pick up an unsold lunch special or baked goods on their way to being “day old.”

The government in Germany, where each citizen throws away more and 120 pounds of food a year, has launched a phone app offering recipes by celebrity chefs made specifically for left-over groceries that often get thrown away.

Private citizens have built social media networks to share food with neighbors before throwing it away, and new companies have enlisted supermarkets to notify consumers when groceries that are about to expire are marked down.

The “Too Good To Go” app was created by two Danish entrepreneurs in 2015, and more than 5,000 people in Germany download it every day.

Ten million people use the app, and some 23,300 food businesses participate.

App developers claim to have rescued 14 million meals in Europe from being thrown away.

There are a number of other food sharing apps, including startup Olio, which is launching in the United States.

Not a non-profit, “Too Good To Go” keeps 1.09 euros ($1.22) per meal sold through the app, but consumers usually get food at about half price.

The McCook Pantry and other food banks already benefit from businesses that donate unsold food items, but France and the Czech Republic have taken things farther, mandating by law that unsold food be donated to charities and food banks.

Granted, current food-sharing apps are aimed toward fast food from restaurants, which is usually not as healthy as home-cooked meals, especially those that involve food grown in home gardens.

But anything that reduces food waste in today’s society is a positive development. Connecting consumers looking for a bargain with businesses wishing to cut their losses is where smartphone apps can demonstrate their unlimited potential.

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