One-third of the world’s food ends up in landfills, while almost a billion people around the globe are hungry. If food waste were a country, it would be the third leading producer of carbon emissions after the United States and China. Fortunately, organizations and individuals around the world have developed and promoted numerous apps to alleviate the problem. These apps help connect farmers to consumers, retailers to charities, and growers to intermediaries. Food Tank highlights 16 apps and their smart efforts to reduce hunger and eliminate waste.
Feedie turns food photography into a charitable donation. Users visit a participating restaurant in the U.S. or South Africa and take a photo of their meal. Then, they share the photo on Facebook or Twitter and the restaurant makes a donation to The Lunchbox Fund, a nonprofit donating meals to impoverished schoolchildren in South Africa. For every 500 restaurants that sign up, 5,000 children in South African schools receive enough meals for one year. The app encourages foodies to share their passion while contributing to a good cause.
A family member’s horror after catering an event that disposed of US$5,000 worth of food inspired the creation of Flashfood. The app prevents food waste in the U.S. and Canada in two ways: It re-sells grocery foods approaching their best-before date at a discount, and it saves “not good enough” retail items and ships them to customers. Farmers and growers can also give Flashfood items that were rejected by grocers, to be sent to environmental-conscious consumers.
3. Food Cowboy
Food Cowboy arranges efficient communication between food donors and charities and fast delivery of excess food in the U.S. Delivery drivers, caterers, and anyone working with large volumes of edible but rejected food create alerts in the app. Food pantries, processors, and composters immediately receive these alerts and contact the source for delivery arrangements. Food Cowboy charges a small commission for the service. For instance, a food bank can buy as much as they can store for 10 cents per pound.
4. Food for All
Food for All eliminates last-minute restaurant food waste in Boston and New York City. It connects customers to restaurants one hour before they close, for meal discounts as high as 80 percent. Customers can enter their location and explore nearby deals, and they pick up their order at a time specified by the restaurant. Users can also donate food to people in need through the app.
5. Food Rescue Hero
Food Rescue Hero turns average eaters into food heroes. The app connects users with nonprofits who serve those who are food insecure. Helping guide “heroes” to locations to pick up or drop off food, the app boasts a rescue schedule flexible enough to accommodate daily, weekly, or once-only rescues—and each rescue takes as little as 30 minutes. The app also gives heroes information about the nonprofit’s work, mission, and impact.
6. Food Rescue US
The Food Rescue US app fights food insecurity by connecting food donors with hunger relief organizations. The app targets anyone who wants to donate or receive food. Users answer a few questions and then request a food pick-up. The algorithm matches surplus food to a nearby shelter and sends a driver to transport the food. More than 2,200 registered volunteers have rescued and delivered 23.1 million meals to people in need.
Foodfully aims to inspire thoughtful consumption of food before its expiration date. Foodfully has a connection to more than 14 grocery stores in the U.S. and their loyalty cards. Every time a user makes a purchase with a loyalty card, the app records the transaction. The app can also scan receipts and record manually entered purchases. Users manage their food items on the app by entering them in the fridge and freezer, deleting the consumed ones, and throwing food away. Foodfully arranges items by perishable dates and sends the user notifications before they go bad. Additionally, the app suggests recipes based on what is available in the user’s fridge.
In New York City, goMkt connects restaurants that have unsold food with customers looking for discounts. By purchasing food as take-out through the app, customers save up to 75 percent off the original price—and reduce potential food waste. The business-to-consumer platform plans to expand to larger food businesses and connect them to charities, composters, and anaerobic digestion facilities.
With a 24/7 service in Atlanta, Goodr picks up excess food from businesses and delivers it to nonprofits. Goodr perceives hunger not as a scarcity but as a logistics issue. Restaurants, catering, and events companies end up with a lot of leftover food, but rarely have the time to make donations, so surplus food ends up in landfills. Goodr allows businesses to schedule food pick-ups, and the company currently generates about US$30,000 of revenue a month.
ImpactVision combines the topics of food safety and food waste to enable a transparent food system. The app uses advanced imaging technology to assess the quality of food. For example, their Fruitcam assesses the ripeness of fruits, so wholesalers decide which ones to ship abroad and which to sell at local stores, and their Fishcam can mark the difference between fresh and frozen fish fillets. ImpactVision enables fast decision making on food quality. With this in mind, businesses can reduce waste and deliver high-quality products to buyers.
NoFoodWasted aims at reducing food waste in the Netherlands by 50 percent in the next five years. This app stimulates demand for discounted products with a best before date. It alerts supermarket shoppers which items are approaching their expiration date. Users do not even need to go to the supermarket to explore the deals, as they can check them online. So far, more than 77,000 users downloaded the app, which achieved 13 percent of its waste reduction goal.
12. No Food Waste
No Food Waste crowd-sources data on hunger spots in India to facilitate surplus food donations. So far, the app has identified 80 locations in Delhi and the capital region. Users themselves can mark hunger spots, which the team verifies and enters in their database. Users can also donate food or request the app to deliver the donation using its volunteer drivers. Usually, No Food Waste picks up the excess food for a minimum of 50 people. For fewer than 50 people, users drop the food at designated collection points or local facility centers. So far, No Food Waste has fed 500,704 people, saving 165 tons of food.
For some, food waste is an inevitable part of modern life, but research indicates that throwing food away causes a feeling of physical pain for others. OLIO taps into the conscious consumer mindset to offer a food-sharing platform, connecting people with neighbors and local shops all over the world. Users add a photo and description of their item, indicating when and where to pick it up. Customers frequently donate fresh garden vegetables, bread from bakeries, and unwanted household food.
Transfernation diverts 1.8 to 2.26 metric tons of food per week from landfills to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and church feeding programs in the New York City metro area. Volunteers, Uber drivers, and Lyft drivers pick up leftover food from offices, receptions, and film sets to redistribute to those in need. The system provides benefits to each type of user: Donors receive a tax write-off for their food donations and redirect their disposal costs towards a good cause; transporters earn US$15 per pick-up; and feeding programs receive free high-quality food.
Winnow seeks to minimize kitchen food waste through smart meter technology attached to a food waste bin. Using a touch screen, users enter the food type, specific product, and what kind of waste it has produced. Staff can then track major sources of waste and concentrate on improvements. Targeting chefs and commercial kitchens, the app has spread to over 30 countries in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Since 2013, Winnow claims to have saved its users US$21 million. Each customer saves 3 to 8 percent on food costs.
16. Yo No Desperdicio
Yo No Desperdicio, meaning “I do not waste” in Spanish, promotes the exchange of raw and cooked food in Spain. On this food-sharing app, users post a picture of the item they offer with information such as quantity, location, and an expiration date. Both parties arrange the swap of their items in a private message. Members also share recipes and tips for preventing food waste.