When I plow through my hundreds of emails every week, I usually find at least one (usually several) articles or blog posts about food waste. This is a good thing. We’ve shared the scary statistics: the average American wastes about 40% of the food he purchases. Massive food waste occurs throughout the food chain — from production through packaging and distribution to our homes and restaurants. Meanwhile, one in six Americans don’t have secure access to food.
All this press about food waste inspires me to reduce mine. It has also spurred others to launch companies and campaigns that tackle the problem head on. Here are three entrepreneurial companies taking creative approaches to addressing the ridiculous, yet serious, issue of food waste.
This year-old organization, founded by two brothers, wants to re-route fresh food that would normally be trashed to people who need it. Food Cowboy has created a system that connects a couple of East Coast trucking companies with local food charities that feed the needy, the sick, and hungry children. When fresh food is about to be scrapped (or “kicked” as they call it in the food distribution world), Food Cowboy goes into action, finding a home for that pallet of slightly bruised or funny looking vegetables. If the food doesn’t find its way to a local charity, Food Cowboy sends alerts to farmers, ranchers, and composters who can repurpose the waste instead of seeing it sent to the landfill.
Zero Percent also connects food wasters with food wanters, but their focus is on waste generated by restaurants. Businesses set up their accounts and post donations when they have leftover food to give. Zero Percent’s system sends alerts to volunteers within 6 miles via email or their mobile app. Those volunteers can accept the donation, pick it up, and put it to good use. A news clip on their web site tells the story of an Urbana, IL Einstein Bros Bagels store that diverted 100 leftover bagels to the local Salvation Army. That is just good to see. Zero Percent started in Champaign-Urbana, IL and has since rolled out to Phoenix and Denver areas.
This Bay Area-based company takes yet another approach to eliminating food waste. A great deal of food waste happens on the farm, where farmers crops must stand up to rigorous “beauty standards” to be picked up for distribution to grocery stores. FoodStar buys that less-than-pretty food at low costs and sells it at discount prices in retail markets. It also works directly with grocery stores’ produce departments to identify food that needs to be sold quickly, scheduling and holding “flash sales” to get that food into hands that need it. Shoppers are alerted via texts when these bargain extravaganzas take place. FoodStar is currently piloting their services in a local retail food chain, Andronico’s.
Many thanks to Grist Magazine for highlighting these food waste pioneers. Do you know of other individuals or companies battling food waste in a new, entrepreneurial way? Let us know — we want to spread the word.
Image Credit: malias via flickr/CC