Fighting food waste: We taste-tested an app that sells unsold meals and groceries at a big discount

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My cat contemplates sampling a discounted slab of cookies-and-cream pie from Seattle’s Pie Bar. He avoided. (Geekwire Photo/Lisa Stifler)

I’ll admit, I definitely have a food waste problem. Four nights out of five, I eat the last, unwanted bite of my baby food so they don’t compost. A shabby heel from a loaf of sandwich bread always becomes my toast. So when the food-saving Good To Go app appeared in Seattle, my hunger pangs.

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stage (whose name bears a confusing resemblance) local toll payment app) connects the hungry with restaurants, cafes, bakeries and grocers who have food on the way. Businesses offer their extra meals at 30% off the regular price.

Besides giving people a crack at cheap food, the company is tackling the enormous challenge of food waste and its environmental and social consequences. Up to 40% of the food produced in the US – including waste crops, food thrown at retailers and restaurants, and in people’s homes – is thrown away, According to the US Department of Agriculture,

Burgers at 9:30 for one-third the price are perfect for anyone, but not me. (To Go To Go app screen shot)

The founders of Too Good To Go wondered, “How can we create a solution that’s really accessible and easy to use, and that’s a simple solution that everyone can be involved in?” Claire Oliverson, head of marketing, said.

His answer was an app that became available to users in the Seattle area in May. Since that time, the company estimates that 30,000 meals have been removed from the compost pile. More than 200 businesses are on site locally.

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The company was started in Denmark in 2006, and is a certified B corporation for its positive impacts. The app is available in 12 cities nationwide, including Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, BC. includes cross-border

I recently downloaded Too Good To Go to try it out. Consumers use the app for free, and businesses are charged a similar fee for each meal.

The platform lets you choose your geographic area and radius based on how far you will travel. The quantity of food per order must be equal to at least one meal.

Most businesses provide “surprise bags” with a limited description of potential rents. For example, Halal Friends recently advertised “delicious rice and sometimes meats and pita bread”, while many bakeries and cafes gave the vague promise of “delicious food that has left the store at the end of the day”.

It is a bit like a roll of the dice. The listing includes star ratings from users, but comments are not specific, featuring only general highlights. Those on a limited diet, such as vegetarian or gluten-free, are advised to ask the seller for details.

pie time

As I browsed my northwest Seattle neighborhood, some offers were available in off hours — burgers at 9:30 p.m. or lunch items at 2 p.m. It made sense, but didn’t fit my schedule. Others were delicious, but I wanted to drive past-their-prime pastries.

I settled on a pie from Pie Bar in the Ballard neighborhood. It was available for $12 instead of the usual $38. The pie would be ready for pickup the next day between 5 and 11 p.m., which coincided with a planned early dinner in the area with friends.

Around 7 p.m., I walked up to the pie bar and was greeted at their window by a friendly employee, who offered me a choice between cookies-and-cream or a chocolate peanut butter pie. I went with the former and was rewarded with a massive, boxed-up confection after a quick verification on the app.

One of my dinner companions has two sons, so I gave more than half the pie for him to take home, as my family of three was unwilling to polish it in time. And to be honest, I’m firmly in the fruit pie camp and the dessert wasn’t a huge hit with my family. That said, it was a great deal and looked fresh enough.

Oliverson said the company attaches great importance to customer satisfaction.

When diners get their surprise bag “it’s just this magical moment,” she said, “and we care whether it happens to people, or the whole thing falls down.”

food saving ecosystem

And what about the risk that the app is redirecting food that would otherwise be sent to food banks and others to help those in need? Oliverson said they try not to undermine those programs, and are often targeting businesses with extra food that are too small for these organizations to accommodate.

There are other efforts working in Washington to reduce food waste. Including Seattle shelf engine, which operates a tech platform used by grocers to manage food orders for their delis, bakeries, cut products, meats and seafood. And the 2050 company, a startup started by a University of Washington graduate, sells instant smoothie powders from salvaged produce.

Oliverson said there is room for everyone in this area.

“We need more solutions in this area,” she said. “Whoever wants to enter, let’s do it together.”

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