Food and Nutrition

The New Food Waste App ‘Too Good To Go’ Is Saving 130,000 Meals Per Day

Erin Bunch

Photo: Stocksy / J.R. PHOTOGRAPHY

Food waste is one of the most often overlooked contributors to climate change; it’s believed to be responsible for up to 11 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Since this waste occurs at every level of the food supply chain, the problem is not so simple to solve. A new app called Too Good To Go, however, has just made its way to the states with the aim of creating a direct connection between two different facets of the supply chain—food purveyors and consumers—to help both reduce their food waste footprint.

Too Good To Go allows consumers to peruse local restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, supermarkets, and really anywhere else that sells perishables daily in order to purchase food that each business might otherwise be forced to throw out at the end of the day. For $4, $5, or $6—depending on the establishment type—consumers can buy a “surprise bag” of food to be picked up at the venue’s closing time. The value of what’s inside each surprise bag is three times more than the cost of the bag, so if you’re buying $6 of sushi, what you’ll get is $18 worth. And the food is still perfectly good, it just can’t be sold the next day. “[Through the app], everyone can do something about food waste and also get great food at only one-third of the price,” says co-founder Lucie Basch.

So, let’s say you order sushi from a restaurant that closes after lunch. Around 2 p.m., you might be able to pick  up your surprise bag, which could consist of anything the restaurant makes—a tuna roll, a crab hand roll, etc. Or let’s say you want some baked goods—for $4, you can pick up $12 worth of whatever the bakery has leftover at whatever time they close. Or if you’re looking for produce or other perishables, you can order from a local supermarket for $5 and get $15 worth of food. And Basch says there’s a pretty broad array of offerings, so you could hypothetically source food via the app everyday and satisfy a variety of cravings.

It’s a win-win proposition for everyone involved. Users save money and do good for the planet, while businesses make money, do good for the planet, and attract new customers who might not have otherwise discovered them. And while the app takes a commission of $1.29 on every transaction, the rest goes into the pockets of businesses that, thanks to the pandemic, could use every extra cent available to them right now.

Too Good To Go is already well established in Europe with a presence in fourteen countries. The company launched operations in the United States—in New York and Boston, more specifically—in September of 2020 and has already signed on 120,000 users and 600 establishments. Basch tells me they’re eyeing Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia next, with plans for as widespread expansion as possible. “When you want to change the world, you have to make a difference in the U.S.,” she says. “And actually the numbers here are even more crazy [than in Europe]—we throw out about 40 percent of the food we produce in America.” (In fact, each American wastes about one pound of food daily).

And the app is making a difference. To date, Basch says the company has saved more than 50 million meals, and that they’re currently averaging a savings of around 130,000 meals per day. You should think of this, she says, as savings of all the various resources that go into the production of that food (such as water and electricity), the transporting of that food, and the packaging of that food—in addition to the food itself. “When you throw away food, you’re wasting all the carbon emissions [that went into it],” she says.

Even the most sustainably-minded among us can admit it’s sometimes difficult to figure out how best to pitch in with respect to the climate emergency, and Basch notes that one of Too Good To Go’s biggest value propositions is its simplicity. Most of us, after all, know far *too* well how to order food off of an app, and choosing to do so via this one versus a more mainstream option allows you to reduce climate change through an action you’re already taking. This is no small contribution, either: “If food waste was a country, it’d be the third biggest polluter behind the U.S. and China,” says Basch. By using To Good To Go, you’re helping to shrink that footprint and the footprint of the US while donating a little extra pocket change to struggling restaurants and saving yourself cash in the process. In other words, it’s too good to… blow?

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