In 2012, American’s threw away 35 million tonnes of food, amounting to 30-40% of the food supply. That means US landfill received more food than plastic, paper, metal or glass. Globally, one third of all the food produced each year never reaches our stomachs. With 805 million hungry and undernourished people in the world today, there is no excuse for this shocking disregard.

Food waste occurs across all stages of the supply chain – on the farm where it is produced, in packing and processing, in distribution and finally in our homes and restaurants. For restaurants, the financial cost of this waste is significant. In the United States, food retailers are sending around $40 billion worth of unsold food straight to the bin, either because of industry standards, marketing practices or donation infrastructures.

To keep displays fresh, many retailers such as bakeries, coffee shops and cafés often throw away completely edible food as it approaches its sell-by date. One imaginative group in New York City is trying to tackle the problem.

PareUp is a new app that connects retailers with customers in an effort to shift their unsold, nearly expired food at the end of the day – thereby benefiting the businesses, the consumers and the environment.

How does it work? At the end of each day, vendors review what they have left on their shelves and list anything that they are not able to keep for another day. Each retailer has a profile on the PareUp website with a short description of their business, their opening hours and a list of any available products. Consumers can then browse listings near where they are, find something they like, visit the shop and receive the discount! You need to be quick, though, as items are only available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

PareUp is keen to stress that it will not be impacting on donations to food banks. As co-founder Margaret Tung explains in an interview with Good Magazine, “The fact is that the reach of these nonprofits is limited by their own budgets, and it’s more efficient for them to deal in larger volume. Many retailers don’t meet the minimum weight requirements [that recovery agencies require to make a pickup] and, for them, pickup can be inconsistent to the point of inconvenience, which may cause them to stop participating.”

Tung goes on to say, “Food safety is also a huge priority for recovery organisations when it comes to serving their recipients. And because they have to transport food, sometimes more than once, there are certain items that either they don’t feel comfortable taking or businesses don’t feel comfortable offering.”

Stores are given easy instructions to share with their staff but in case of any problems, the team at PareUp are happy to stop by.

At the moment, PareUp is only available in New York City, but it is looking to expand to a dozen other US cities in the next year. If you would like to see PareUp where you live, let them know.

Featured image by Lou Henry

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