One-third of the food produced worldwide (that’s almost 1.3 billion tons) is wasted every year.
In the U.S., the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that each person wastes more than 20 pounds of food per month, which is 30-40% of our food supply. Yikes.
And, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the family breakdown looks bad, too: an average family of four leaves more than 2 million calories (nearly $1,500 worth of food) uneaten each year. Double yikes.
A member of the Argentinian “freegan” movement rummages through a garbage container for food in 2012. The freegans collect the food discarded by supermarkets and restaurants, among other strategies to find free food. Photo via Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty Images.
Solving this massive food waste problem could help us feed 795 million undernourished people on our planet.
Plus, reducing the amount of food waste could put a dent in climate change (rotting food releases methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide). Recently, the U.S. government announced that it’s setting a goal to cut food waste in half by 2030. That’s a big goal.
Here’s one incredibly cool solution that could help get us there: a mobile app from a Dutch entrepreneur that helps supermarkets cut food waste.
It could also save you quite a bit of money in the process.
How does it work? Based on your location, the No Food Wasted app shows discounts available in your area on food that’s about to expire. Need bananas? Head to grocery store #1 for discounted bananas that might go into the trash 24 hours later. Looking for a loaf of bread? Grocery store #10 has 20 loaves that are reaching the end of their lives very soon.
We’ve created a concrete solution for people to do something … they don’t have to pay more money, go to different grocery stores, or eat less food,” said August de Vocht, the creator of the No Food Wasted app, which he developed at his mobile media company, Gemoro.
In a pilot study, the No Food Wasted app cut food waste in supermarkets up to 18%.
That’s huge. From September 2014 to May 2015, the pilot study followed 22 stores from five supermarket chains in southern Netherlands. Those supermarkets cut their food waste pretty significantly by using this app, which is currently available only in Dutch.
While Dutch supermarkets throw away 10,000 euros’ (over $11,000) worth of food a month, the markets that have used the app have saved up to 1,800 euros a month, de Vocht told Upworthy.
How did they make this big of a difference? De Vocht says the key was giving customers financial incentives for food that’s nearing the end of its shelf life.
The app is simple to use, which makes it even more of a win.
Users log in via their Facebook, Twitter, or email accounts, or even anonymously. Grocery stores use an administrator’s version of the app to scan a product into the app’s database, along with the discount, number of units available, and best before” date.
Users can check out a list of stores nearby, or they can click on one supermarket to see a list of all of its offerings at the moment.
And while supermarkets pay a monthly fee to use the app (which helps them get rid of food that’s going bad and make more money at the same time), shoppers can download the app for free.
One thing we learned is that people are triggered mostly by money and not by the environment,” de Vocht said.
When we asked about what discount was needed to sell the product, 35% was the magic number.”
The future looks good for the app, too. Since smartphones and supermarkets abound, de Vocht sees this as a solution that can be replicated around the world.
There are, of course, limitations: The app isn’t perfectly configured to update the number of units available in real time once discounted items sell. The No Food Wasted team is working on fixing that issue. They’re also focused on raising investor money so they can roll out the app at grocery stores throughout the rest of the Netherlands, and then throughout the European Union.
Here’s hoping that you’ll be able to use the No Food Wasted at a supermarket near you soon!