4 Apps to Fight Food Waste with Your Phone

food waste

A whopping 40 percent of the food produced in America ends up in landfills.

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Spoiler alert: As much as 40 percent of the food produced in America ends up at the dump, off-gassing methane and contributing to climate change. And we consumers bear a great deal of the blame. Become part of the solution with these free apps. Three of the four require a critical mass of users to create a sharing economy, so even if an app isn’t yet functional in your community, go ahead, sign up, and encourage other locals to do the same.

OLIO

The Gist

OLIO empowers neighbors to post, and claim, extra food. One of our Brooklyn-based editors recently scored free tomatoes posted by a gardener in her ’hood.

The Caveat(s)

This peer-to-peer network depends on a significant user base for peak performance—something that’s happened only in major cities so far. There, stuff goes fast: 40 percent of listings are claimed within an hour.

The Founder’s (or a Flack’s) Two Cents

“Once people take the leap of faith, they’re almost universally delighted by the amount of groceries people give away when they leave town or start diets.” —Tessa Cook, co-founder

Food for All

The Gist

Restaurants offer deep discounts on stuff they’d otherwise throw out, sometimes for as much as 80 percent off.

The Caveat(s)

Currently limited to New York City and Boston, Food for All plans to on-board five more locations by summer. Descriptions are kept deliberately vague (“three pastries,” “salad with protein”) to prevent users from gaming the system by holding out for favorite dishes.

The Founder’s (or a Flack’s) Two Cents

“We’ve enlisted 60 restaurants since launching in August 2017 and have already saved 1,000 pounds of food.” —Sabine Valenga, co-founder

Food Rescue US

The Gist

Join 1,900 “food heroes” in 12 locales who receive alerts when surplus eats need to be picked up (typically from grocery stores, farmers markets, or caterers) and delivered to soup kitchens and other hunger-prevention organizations.

The Caveat(s)

Busy folks may find getting pinged at work annoying. For them, we recommend opting out of being “on call” 24/7 and signing up for a recurring route—say, a stop at Whole Foods every Saturday at 2p.m.

The Founder’s (or a Flack’s) Two Cents

“We’re not trying to influence policy; we’re feeding people. I believe we can end hunger in the U.S. one community at a time.” —Alison Sherman, director of communications

USDA FoodKeeper

The Gist

Hit “Add to Calendar” on this app (a joint venture of the USDA, Cornell University, and the Food Marketing Institute) when freezing ground beef, for instance, and in three months, you’ll be reminded that it’s use-it-or-lose-it time.

The Caveat(s)

The how-to videos (think: the safe way to thaw poultry) seem only slightly less corny than home-ec class.

The Founder’s (or a Flack’s) Two Cents

“Buying things on sale and letting them spoil doesn’t save money or food. You need to think about your inventory.” —Robert Gravani, director emeritus of Cornell’s National Good Agricultural Practices Program

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4 Apps to Fight Food Waste with Your Phone