Kane County Restaurants and Supermarkets Using Mobile Apps to Reduce Hunger and Food Waste
It seems wrong that so much edible food is landfilled (about 3.8 million tons every year in Illinois), while people are going hungry. Well several mobile apps are helping to tackle the problem by allowing supermarkets and restaurants to sell food at high risk of spoiling direct to consumers at steeply discounted prices, and some of our area businesses are using these services!
For grocery stores, there is an app called Flashfood . Currently, Meijer locations in Elgin, St. Charles, East Aurora and Oswego participate. Each location lists items in the app that are usually within a few days of the "best by" date at steeply discounted prices.
Just as an example, on the day this article was written, offerings in St. Charles included pork loin, chicken drums, bagged salad greens, prepared deli salads, cut fruit, and even healthy snack packs for school lunches, all for at least 50% off. Customers can buy the items through the app and pick them up right at customer service. The Flashfood app is free to download for iOS and Android.
For restaurants, cafes and bakeries, there is Too Good to Go . Restaurants can list food at steeply discounted prices and specify a pick-up window when that food will be available. Customers can reserve specific items and "surprise bags" through the app. The "surprise bags" allow restaurants to make a listing for their leftover food of the day without knowing exactly what they will have. This obviously works best for customers who aren't very picky and who don't have dietary restrictions. For example, Small Cakes in Aurora and Panera Bread locations in Aurora and St. Charles recently had surprise bags on offer for $5.
Local businesses also help solve food waste and food insecurity by working directly with our local non-profit food heroes. For example, Northern Illinois Food Bank estimates that 80% of its food comes from companies that produce food rather than from residential donations.
The best thing that any household can do individually to prevent food waste is to carefully plan shopping to avoid over-buying. Write up a menu before grocery shopping and buy only what is needed to fulfill the menu plus any additional staples and snacks. Make sure you check your list against what you already have in the pantry to avoid duplicates. This helps prevent over-buying or aspirational buying of items that aren't likely to be used before they spoil.
Another tip is not to grocery shop on an empty stomach. A research study on customer behavior found that hungry shoppers are more likely to buy unhealthy foods and to over-buy.
If you find that you have over-bought a perishable food (or if it was only available in a quantity larger than you needed), can the leftovers be frozen or preserved in other creative ways? I have used leftover strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, basil, citrus rinds and ginger to make syrups for soda and mixed drinks.
See Kane County Recycling Program's Food Waste Prevention webpage for more creative ideas and to contribute some of your own!