We as a society are facing countless crises that it feels like we have no individual power to change. Climate change, people with uteruses in the U.S. being stripped of their bodily autonomy, the rise of fascism and global political instability… it can be easy to get overwhelmed and conclude that we are powerless in the face of these massive problems. But that mindset obscures the reality that there are steps we can take right now—however small they may be—to build a better world for ourselves going forward.
One area in which we can affect change relatively simply is in the sphere of food waste. According to the USDA, the U.S. wastes between 30% and 40% of its food supply. Although large corporations and retailers are to blame for much of this waste, a lot of it also happens at the consumer level. And the sweaty, stinky bag of kale shoved in the back of your fridge is proof.
This is especially frustrating at this time when food prices have skyrocketed across the country and portions of the population go hungry on a regular basis. The problem as a whole is not easy to solve, but at an individual level, there are concrete steps we can all take to reduce food waste and save money at the same time. App developers have turned to technology to connect hungry people to those with excess food, and they’ve come up with some pretty solid systems. Let’s take a look at some of the apps helping to reduce food waste.
Too Good to Go
The food waste app I use on a regular basis is called Too Good to Go, and it’s incredibly easy to use. Input your location into the app, and it’ll provide you with a list of restaurants, grocery stores and eateries that have excess food to get rid of. Pay a small fee (usually around $3 or $4), reserve your food and pick up your bag at a designated time. You generally don’t get to choose what you want, but there have been times that I’ve received a lot of food by using this app. I like this method because by paying for these foods that would otherwise be wasted, I’m also helping the business in question. Some of my best finds from this app include a massive bag of croissants and lamb kebabs with salad, both for only $4 each.
In the U.S., we live in a highly individualistic society. But wouldn’t things be easier—and less expensive—if we could learn to better share what we have with friends and neighbors? That’s basically the idea behind the app Olio. The app allows you to post about excess food you have in your home or business. Others who are interested in that food can then come pick it up and find ways to use it in their own kitchens. The app isn’t limited to food, though; you can list a wide variety of household products. Why pay for stuff that others are looking for a way to get rid of anyway?
If you’ve ever seen the dumpster behind a chain grocery store, then you know that the amount of food waste these big retailers produce is absolutely staggering. A lot of the time, the food isn’t even bad, either—the best by date has just passed, or they simply have to make room for more inventory. This leads to a lot of waste, and that’s exactly the problem that Flashfood is trying to solve. This app allows you to browse through deals at local grocery stores and can offer discounts of up to 50%. Then, you can pay through the app and pick up your groceries at your convenience. What’s not to love about such a simple process?
Food for All
Food for All works similarly to Too Good to Go. Essentially, it allows restaurants to sell food that would otherwise go to waste. However, as a consumer, you won’t have to pay full price for these meals—they’re offered at a steep discount. I love how this app is set up because it’s mutually beneficial: People who need restaurant-quality meals for cheap get them without having to pay a premium, and it ensures that restaurants can actually make money on their food that would otherwise go to waste.
YourLocal is a Danish app got its start as a simple group chat between friends. But now, it’s grown into an app that connects stores with surplus food with people who need to eat for cheap. Consumers can get up to a 70% discount and are able to pick up their food at whatever time is most convenient to them.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.