This App Helps You Fight Food Waste by Getting a Cheap Meal

1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year.

(Photos: Too Good to Go/Twitter)

Aug 11, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Sean Eckhardt is TakePart's editorial fellow.
It’s a scene played out at the end of every day in restaurants all around the world: Countless garbage bags filled with unsold, perfectly fresh food are thrown into the Dumpster, contributing to the 1.3 billion tons of wasted food that go to the landfill every year.

The developers of a new app are working to turn some of that would-be wasted food into affordable to-go meals. The app, called Too Good to Go, is a platform for cafés, restaurants, and bakeries to sell products that are left over at day’s end. Restaurant owners can log on to the app an hour before closing and post surplus portions of food that, if left unsold, would have to be thrown away. Customers who log on can purchase the individual meals normally sold on restaurants’ regular menus and in their display cases but at deeply discounted prices.

The app is available in six countries; cofounder Chris Wilson and his team are in the midst of launching it in the United Kingdom and have plans for further expansion. The app features a variety of cuisines, and meals are available throughout the day, not just late at night, when restaurant kitchens are winding down.

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Wilson said the concept was originally targeted at college students, those with an environmental interest in limiting food waste, and budget-conscious people looking for cheap takeaway meals—but it caught on with a broader audience.

“We’ve saved over 100,000 meals from the landfill since launching in Denmark in the back end of last year,” he said.

According to experts like JoAnne Berkenkamp, senior advocate and food-waste prevention specialist at the National Resources Defense Council, not only is the waste rate unsustainable, but it results in businesses leaving money on the table.

“Many food-service purveyors don’t recognize the amount of food that goes to waste, and they underestimate the value of it,” Berkenkamp said.

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that 54 billion pounds of food are wasted in restaurants in the United States every year. Only about 16 percent of that restaurant food waste is donated or recycled—and three-quarters of that is recycled cooking oil, not consumable food, according to findings by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. Those numbers can be improved if reducing food waste becomes an economic imperative, and innovations like Too Good to Go make it easier to both redirect and quantify the value of food that would normally land in the trash.

“Restaurants are busy, and they take food that does go to waste as a cost of doing business,” Berkenkamp said. “But people are starting to question that assumption, and because of that, we’re going through a period of innovation in the restaurant environment.”