cafe employee hands bag of food to customer

Too Good To Go, the Danish app that fights food waste in Europe, recently launched in New York and Boston. This innovative interface connects restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores with consumers to sell surplus food at a discount.

The organization’s goal is “to inspire and empower everyone to fight food waste,” and the app has already saved over 50 million meals across 15 countries since 2016. Too Good To Go says it creates a win-win solution for businesses and individuals. Its growing community is nearly 27 million strong.

Individuals use the app to reserve a “surprise bag” of food from local retailers and restaurants. Items may include an assortment of unsold meals, baked goods, or groceries. The food is typically available for pickup only during a finite window of time later in the day, when potential waste is identified. Too Good To Go provides a simple, everyday action people can take to reduce food waste in their communities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurateurs, bakers, and hotel owners have been struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, numerous households have had their incomes slashed. The app offers businesses a new revenue stream for food that, otherwise, would have been wasted. Many users report enjoying the opportunity to try new foods and be adventurous, at a reduced cost.

A Worldwide Food Waste Problem

“Food waste is such a huge issue that it’s daunting,” says Gaeleen Quinn, East Coast director for Too Good To Go, in an interview with Earth911. In the U.S., people waste nearly a pound of food daily on average. Globally, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year yet 870 million go hungry. There is enough wasted food to feed the hungry four times over. It’s difficult to even conceptualize how much food is wasted and how to help make a difference.

“At the core of our mission, we want to inspire and empower people, both from the consumer side and the business side,” explains Quinn. “We have a tool that can help people make an impact. Every time someone picks up a meal [through the app], it’s not going into the trash just because of an issue with logistics. Instead, that meal gives someone nourishment.”

Quinn has worked in the food and beverage industry for many years and has seen first-hand the magnitude of food waste, which has inspired her to make a difference. She also notes the relationship between climate change, food waste, and pollution. Tremendous resources go into cultivating, processing, packaging, transporting, and selling food that ends up in landfills. Cutting food waste is a simple way to mitigate climate change.

The Too Good To Go app provides a missing piece in connecting supply and demand and uses technology to fill that gap. “When I heard about Too Good To Go, I thought it was an ingenious idea, and I wanted to bring it to the U.S.,” Quinn said.

Having worked in the industry, Quinn appreciates how simple the app is for businesses to turn waste into revenue. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from restaurateurs and bakers looking for innovative new ideas.”

Envisioning a Planet With No Food Waste

In Europe, Too Good To Go also collaborates with local schools on educational initiatives and helps impact policies as part of a systemic approach to mitigate food waste. Although significant gains have been made in recent years to curb food waste in Europe through governmental policies, the U.S. is lagging behind. This creates a void that companies and nonprofit organizations can help fill.

So far, the app has been well received in the U.S. as the community grows rapidly, according to Quinn. “Our vision is to have a planet with no food waste. Our everyday obsession is to save as many meals as we can all over the country. Every month, we want to double the number of meals we saved over the last month [in the U.S.].”

Quinn says the app has already saved 10,000 meals as it scales up in Boston and New York. There are plans to expand to other U.S. cities in 2021.

Feature image courtesy of Too Good To Go

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.