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5 Apps that Reduce Food Waste and Help Feed the Hungry

June 30, 2016 |

Food is food because it’s meant to be eaten. But all too often, what’s intended for the table ends up in the dumpster. To address the issue, a growing movement of developers is creating easy-to-operate tech tools to help people produce volumes of food with less surplus and rescue food that would typically go to waste.

1. Zero Percent

Rajesh Karmani created the food waste app Zero Percent to help commercial kitchens donate their surplus food to soup kitchens and other food access points for those in need.

To arrange a pickup, the user simply click the app’s “donate” button, fills out a few logistical questions about when and where to pick the food up, and someone trained in local and federal food handling procedures comes by and gets the goods.

In addition to collecting unwanted food and directing it to people who need it, the company also allows users to track food waste and provides waste reduction tips.

Through this process, the Chicago-based company estimates it has recirculated food into nearly one million meals and worked with more than 450 donors, netting them praise from local businesses large and small, such as Einstein Bros Bagels, the Salvation Army, local grocers, and soup kitchens.

2. Food Cowboy

Food Cowboy’s slogan, “Nothing Goes to Waste,” sounds ambitious, but it’s a good representation of what this modern, food wrangling tech company can do.

Working on the principles of a matchmaking service, Food Cowboy’s app allows delivery drivers, caterers, and others who encounter large volumes of edible, but rejected food to post an alert on Food Cowboy’s cloud-based server. The app notifies food pantries, processors, composters, and other alternative outlets in the area, who can then contact the source and work out delivery arrangements. The app was developed by a team of experienced truckers, lawyers, nutritionists, and logistics professionals, whose shared expertise has helped salvage more than 1 million pounds of food since 2013.

3. Rainbow

Most of us are familiar with the idea of the lone farmer, sitting on a tractor in a huge field, tending to acres upon acres of crops. What’s less ingrained in our brains is the fact that farming hasn’t historically been such a solitary occupation. To facilitate more communication and collaboration between Indian farmers, Greeno Tech Solutions has created Rainbow Agri, a suite of four farmer tools billed as “The Internet of Farmers.”

Taken together, the apps provide farmers with platforms for communicating overages through voice or text, connecting with customers in an online marketplaces, and executing and tracking smooth transactions with point-of-sale technology.

In addition to decreasing homeless food, the apps are also intended to boost business for local farmers who might otherwise end up sitting on pallets of edible food with nowhere to sell it.

If the level of participation can be used as a measure of success, the apps are doing very well at getting people famous for being tight lipped to communicate with each other and feeding more people in the process. Project officials estimate nearly 13,000 farmers have gotten or stayed in touch through the apps, sending more than 110,000 messages.

4. PareUp

If you’re not picky about expiration dates and want to go on a delicious self-guided tour of New York City, this is the app for you. All you have to do is search for food that retailers have posted in your area. The food hasn’t been previously sold, isn’t expired, but is sold for a discount.

The app also helps retailers, too. PareUp allows stores to gain extra revenue by selling goods that would have gone to waste. It also allows establishments to save money, cut disposal costs, and helps retailers find new customers while reducing food waste.

While many food co-ops and natural food stores have been offering their B-grade products at a mark down for all of these same reasons for years, PareUp leverages the connectivity of the internet to make the practice a more widely available tool and turn New York City into one huge “disco shelf.”

5. Waste No Food

Similar to the other apps on this list, Waste No Food’s app matches excess food with hungry people.

The app facilitates the ongoing work of an eponymous California-based nonprofit that collects donated goods from the food service industry, farms, and local grocery stores to give to charities, homeless shelters, and food pantries that serve the needy.

Those with food available for donation simply post a notice about their surplus, which can be seen by qualified charities in the vicinity. Those charities, who have been vetted by Waste No Food can then claim the food and arrange to pick it up.

For detailed information on the estimated 133 billion pounds of food wasted in the U.S. each year, see this 2014 report from the USDA.  

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