Fill Stomachs, Not Dumpsters: Smart Technology Aims to Reduce Food Waste Around the World

Let’s start this off with a bang, shall we? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about 1/3 of the world’s food supply goes uneaten, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year. It doesn’t stop there. Food waste costs about $165 billion a year and sucks up about 25% of the freshwater supply. Loss and wastage occur during all stages of food production, and differing global economies affect how and why food is wasted. For example, in low-income countries, most food waste occurs during production, while in more developed countries, a lot of food is wasted at the consumption stage. With these staggering statistics the unnecessary squandering of food is apparent, but there are new technologies in the form of apps and websites that aim to fight food wastage in order to feed an ever-growing population.

foodsharing
FoodSharing.de, a non-profit organization with more than 43,000 subscribers in Germany, is trying to tackle food waste locally. Encouraged by the alarming statistic that the average German wastes 80 kilograms of food each year, the site offers users a chance to advertise unwanted provisions for others. The basic concept, according to the website, is simple – ‘people share food.’ No money is exchanged here because food is considered more than just a commodity. However, some food can cause illness and therefore Foodsharing.de does not allow any exchange of eggs, raw meat and fish. According to Barbara Merhart, a Munich-based coordinator for Foodsharing.de, many users aren’t just those on a tight budget, but professionals who simply want to make consumption more efficient.

PareUp

PareUp is a new app that aims to connect consumers to restaurants and grocery stores with excess food. The app locates food that needs to be sold and tells consumers where they can get it. In America, where up to 40 percent of food is wasted, PareUp could have a significant impact on the way people perceive their food. According to PareUp developers, supermarkets throw out $15 billion worth of produce a year because of surplus stock and aesthetic imperfections, while restaurants and households are responsible for throwing away about 39 billion kilos.

PareUp is approaching the food waste crisis from a unique angle, employing financial incentive for businesses and consumers alike. The biggest hurdle for PareUp and other resourceful apps and websites will be tackling national food hygiene policies, which could cause a legal barrier separating people from edible food. Such a conversation could spark necessary action capable of establishing a more sustainable and efficient food economy.

The founders of PareUp realize that there is a narrow window of opportunity to act when food goes from edible to inedible. But rather than waiting for food to go bad people can offer it to others with a few simple clicks of a mouse. PareUp has joined hands with coffee shops and bakeries in New York City, including Oslo Coffee RoastersPushCart Coffee and Breads Bakery.

Also in the United States, farmers are using Cropmobster or Food Cowboy to route surplus food to food banks and charities. CropMobster ensures that no farmer has to throw away unsold food. It links communities in need with local farmers, producers and food purveyors who can quickly sell or donate excess produce.

Advanced kitchen technology, such as smart refrigerators, can help consumers manage their food consumption more reasonably. LG recently introduced a new “food management system” that allows consumers to check their fridge inventory and information about expiration dates straight from a smartphone, so people don’t forget what perishables they have.

FreshPaper by Fenugreen has released a simple piece of paper infused with spices that organically keep fruits and vegetables fresh 2 to 4 times longer than average.

LeftOverSwap is a Seattle based app that allows people to trade dinners or give away excess food by taking photos of products and uploading them to the database.

Google has also jumped in for the cause and has collaborated with the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s to launch “Food Rescue,” a new app that gets you a recipe by combining a maximum of nine leftover ingredients.

Love Food Hate Waste is another free app that offers hints, tips and recipe ideas to keep home cooks from trashing those overripe tomatoes too soon.

As vast as global food waste is, new technology makes the fight to feed very apparent: it’s a local issue that demands immediate action. So, get involved by starting at your table and reach out from there!

Cover photo : www.nopalize.com