Apps That Can Help Businesses Reduce Food Waste (and Save Consumers Money)
Businesses (including supermarkets and restaurants) throw out too much edible food. Here’s a selection of apps that can help put a dent in food waste at that level while also helping hungry people get nutritious food.
In terms of the supply chain — from farm to plate and everywhere in between — there are a lot of places where food waste can happen. It’s not just businesses that are to blame for it; there are a lot of factors involved, and it’s a really hard problem to solve.
Apps are a great thing to involve in the process of finding solutions for things like food insecurity because they have a very low barrier of entry. If someone has a compatible smartphone or other mobile device, they can go to the app store on the device and install something easily, even if they are relatively inexperienced with tech. And almost everyone these days has a mobile device of some sort.
(By the way, if you don’t have access to a smartphone but need to run an Android app, I recommend looking at BlueStacks, an emulator that runs on PC. I’m not affiliated with them, but I’ve used the software, so I know it works. And it’s free, which is my favorite price.)
The point is, when we’re talking about connecting person A, who has something they don’t need, with person B, who needs the thing person A has, involving an app makes some sense. It makes sense because the odds are pretty good that both person A and person B have compatible devices and can, with or without help, install apps.
Why Doesn’t Every Business Donate Unsold Items?
There are many reasons why a business might trash items rather than attempt to sell or donate them. The biggest one is misinformation: businesses (and individuals) fear legal repercussions when it comes to donations, but those fears are almost completely unfounded. Check out this article for more on that.
How This List Was Created
I haven’t tried some of these, so I can’t speak to how user-friendly they are. However, I’ve done enough homework on them to be comfortable recommending them. In other words, I’m not knowingly promoting malicious apps. I’m also not making any money from any downloads or engagement you might have with these apps (or with any of the other links in the post).
If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of an organization that claims to be charitable, by the way, there are steps you can take to learn more about them before offering your support. Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and GuideStar are among the sites where you can find helpful information about established charities and similar organizations.
Even if none of these apps is active currently in your area, that doesn’t mean they’ll never be in your area. Reach out and ask! If you’ve got skills that would be useful to them in terms of expansion into your area, it might be the start of something awesome. You never know.
The Actual List
Bring Me Home
Australia-based Bring Me Home estimates that its users have helped put 4750 meals (2375 kg of food, or about 5225 pounds) into the hands of people who need them.
DamoGo is based in South Korea, and their website offers the following estimate as to the current state of food waste there:
About 1/5 of all food produced in Korea is wasted. It is estimated that about 2,000 tons of perfectly untouched food are thrown away daily. We are changing that irony.
Ambitious talk for any company, but they’ve really been getting out there. As recently as November 2019, they’ve placed respectably at various expos, including ranking among the top 16 (out of 1500) at Abu Dhabi World Future Energy Summit.
Flashfood is a Canadian operation, but it has locations in Wisconsin (3) and Michigan (4), in addition to the whopping 405 current locations across Canada, including 125 in Ontario and 139 in Québec.
Food For All
This one is US-based. It’s only in NYC and Boston at the moment, but the app’s map tab shows an impressive number and variety of locations. Definitely check out Food For All if you’re in one of those areas.
Karma’s tagline is, “rescue unsold food.” Their page on the Android app store boasts that they have more than 1600 partner locations across the following cities: London, Paris, Umeå, Götenborg, Malmö, and Stockholm. People on the app store seem to think it needs some work, however, since its average rating is 3.6 stars, with 1986 people having rated it at the time this article was written. But that’s a good reason to download and use it, if you’re in one of its service areas. The more people interact with it, the more they can learn about what might be causing problems (and how to make things better).
Operating mainly in northern Europe, ResQ Club has participating locations in several cities across four countries: Finland (75), Sweden (13), Germany (2), and Poland (1). Just in Finland’s capital, Helsinki, there are at least 319 food businesses that partner with them, and the website claims more than 18,000 users are in the area as well.
YourLocal specializes in rescuing restaurant food that would otherwise hit the landfill, where it would decompose and release greenhouse gases. Why not sell it to someone who’s hungry? Currently operating in Copenhagen and NYC.
YWaste (pronounced “why waste”) isn’t as flashy as some, but I’d still give it a shot if you happen to live in its service area. As far as I can tell, that’s Australia and New Zealand. And they don’t just work with food waste. Their promotional video mentions flowers as well, and that’s pretty neat.
One of the reasons I decided to make this list, along with genuine interest and concern for the issues, is that I hope getting the word out about projects like these will lead to them expanding more quickly or evolving into something new. If you have skills as a developer or a designer, if you’re a writer, or if you have interests that are relevant to issues like food waste and poverty, reach out to these folks! If you think they should be in your area, tell them that, too.
The thing about these kinds of apps is, they only work if people and businesses know about them and use them often. If you know a business owner in one of those service areas who would be a good fit, be sure to mention it to them. Change really does start with awareness.