Apps to Help Against Food Waste

While the holidays are a time to bring family and friends together over big celebrations and meals we also need to be aware of food waste and those that go without.  Unfortunately, 40 percent of all food in the U.S. goes to waste because of excessive portion sizes at restaurants, misinterpretation of expiration dates on packaged foods, and overstocking. Thankfully, food waste can be reduced using what many people already carry in their pockets—their smartphones.

Numerous food waste apps have been created to help consumers throw away less food in their homes with date trackers, educational platforms, and recipe generators. Additionally, restaurants, grocery stores, and other food businesses can use the apps to donate food they can no longer sell.

This Thanksgiving, consider trying a new smartphone app to help your family reduce food waste. Here are 14 notable apps worth trying, courtesy of FoodTank (focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters):

1. AmpleHarvest: now allows farmers and gardeners to connect with food pantries through an iPhone app. The platform allows users to donate the abundance of their harvest to those in need.

2. Green Egg Shopper: In addition to tracking expiration dates on purchased food items,Green Egg Shopper also provides a tracker for coupons, vouchers, and overall food expenditures.

3. Feeding Forward: Californian businesses and farms can donate their excess product with Feeding Forward, which allows individuals to donate surplus food from their homes. Anyone wishing to give excess food can post the donation on the app or on the online website, and then allow a driver to pick up and deliver the food to a nearby shelter in need. Feeding Forward even allows users to track their impact by viewing profiles of the organizations and individuals who receive their donations.

4. Flash Food: In Arizona, FlashFood connects food service institutions to food recovery organizations and local community centers with a network of volunteers.

5. Food Cowboy: Food Cowboy works at the distribution level to redistribute rejected deliveries from wholesalers and restaurants to food banks and soup kitchens. Event hosts and caterers can use the app to request pickup of leftovers, and charities can use the platform to source larger donations.

6. FoodKeeper: The USDA voice-controlled FoodKeeper app provides storage method tips to extend shelf life, cooking tips for meat and seafood products, and sends expiration reminders to consumers. Additionally, the app contains a feature called Ask Karen that allows users to submit questions to its 24/7 virtual representative that can answer questions about cooking, storage, and food-borne illnesses.

7. FridgePal: Oftentimes, consumers throw away their groceries due to expiration dates. But FridgePal tracks the expiration dates of food items and offers consumer shopping lists, recipes searchable by lists of ingredients, and a meal planner. The app visually separates food contained in refrigerators, freezers, and pantries. It also gives cooks the option of viewing items by type, such as dairy, meals and leftovers, or sauces.

8. LeftoverSwap: Users of LeftoverSwap can snap a picture of their uneaten food and arrange for pickup with other community members who are interested in their leftovers.

9. PareUp: PareUp allows consumers in New York City to purchase unsold food at a discount from a number of various retailers, who in turn increase their revenues by selling food that normally would have been thrown away at the end of the business day.

10. Reta: Reta sends users timely reminders on their phones, allowing them to see all of their food at home from any location to plan their meals at any time. The feature is also useful while shopping for groceries to avoid overbuying. And Reta tracks how much users eat, allowing them to see lifetime statistics of what percentage of food goes uneaten.

11. Spoiler Alert: Spoiler Alert allows food distributors to donate surplus product to charities in Boston, MA. “We offer a secondary market for discounted food sales, which enables new revenue streams, and streamline and simplify the documentation for tax benefits, which are quite sizable,” says co-founder Emily Malina.

12. Still Tasty: Knowing how to store various food items can help anyone keep their food fresh longer. Still Tasty will also provide expiration date reminders while also giving users access to a detailed database containing hundreds of food items. The resource takes many variables into account, such as if the item’s store-bought or homemade, open or unopened, and packaging type, giving storage tips accordingly.

13. Waste No Food: Waste No Food is a nonprofit platform created by Kiran Sridhar, a high school student in the San Francisco Bay Area. The app connects farms, restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores with local groups that need donations, and has helped to save over 10,000 pounds of food.

14. Zero Percent: Chicago’s retailers with excess food can use the Zero Percent app to post available donations in real time. “Zero Percent is a food rescue platform, not just an app, that solves the problem of matching and moving excess prepared and perishable food between businesses and local nonprofits in a reliable and safe way,” says Raj Karmani, founder. “The platform coordinates the rescue of nearly 2,500 pounds a day without owning any vehicle or warehouse. Zero Percent will hit its millionth pound this holiday season.”


The Dirty Price for Organic Produce

Refrigerator Veggie Drawer
Refrigerator Veggie Drawer

So this is not a statement about politics…it simply is about dirt.  When you buy your produce at the grocery store, especially if it is grown conventionally it’s clean looking and sprarkling and even shiny (waxes, washes…).  However when you buy from a farmer’s market or get a produce box delivered from a CSA, it’s dirty.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with that.  It just takes some extra effort. 

Sometimes parents in my classes ask if it is necessary to wash organic produce.  The answer is YES.  Even if it doesn’t look dirty, the produce may have bugs (bug feces), dirt, bacteria etc.  And just because you’re not going to eat the peel, such as a carrot.  You still need to wash the outside.  Everything from the outside of that carrot is getting pushed right inside when you use the peeler or knife.

 My family gets it’s dirtiest produce from our own yard and CSA box.  When we pick a radish or something else from the ground, it’s clear it needs washing.  And CSA’s don’t have time (or resources) to wash your produce.   I didn’t realize how messy produce could be until I looked into my new refrigerator and saw the dirt. (see above).  Oh my!  My kids and I love to come home to see the box of produce on the front porch on delivery day.  It’s the element of surprise and a bit like opening a present on Christmas morning.  “I wonder what’s inside”, my daughter will say. 

We three gather around the “low table” and everyone looks in and starts taking out and identifying “Carrots, grapes, peppers, potatoes… Is this kale or chard?”  Before I saw the dirt in the refrigerator, we were simply transferring the items from the box to the produce bags to the refrigerator.  Well now we we have a new system…

1. Unpack and identify

2. Give items that need washing right away (not greens or berries) to mom at the sink

3. Mom washes, scrubs and dries

4. Kids count items and put in reusable produce bags.  (These bags are great.  They look like mesh and the produce can breathe.  However unlike plastic or bio bags, the dirt escapes)

5. Put appropriate bags in refrigerator or bowl(s) on counter. 

Of course there’s some upfront time (but we make the chore fun), and now I can keep my refrigerator clean (and save time when prepping to cook).