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Fighting Food Waste With A Phone App

'Food waste' is food that's perfectly wholesome and edible. It's just stuff that didn't get sold so or got rotated off of inventory for new produce.

Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's about a pound of food per person every day. But one nonprofit is trying to reduce food waste with a smartphone app that connects businesses with local food banks.

Justin Block is with Feeding America discusses the app — how it works and the difference it has made so far.

Interview Highlights

On what food waste is:

"It's food that's perfectly wholesome and edible. It's just stuff that didn't get sold, so it could be produce from a grocery store that got rotated off of inventory for new produce.

It could be, you know, steak or a ground beef from a butcher shop that just for whatever reason didn't get sold that day, and so then that kind of food can be donated to our food banks and the other charities we work with."

On how 'Meal Connect' works:

"We started Meal Connect to help our food banks work more efficiently and effectively with those partner organizations — those soup kitchens and food pantries in their community.

Over time we evolved it to become this smartphone app where any food business that has extra food can post it on Meal Connect and then the algorithm running in the background connects that donation with one of those partner agencies that's been vetted and trained by the food bank for food safety.

Then they can go pick it up or a volunteer at times can be alerted to go pick up and then deliver that donation to that partner agency to be served that very day to to somebody who needs it."

On the results so far in San Antonio and Austin:

"Both of those food banks do use Meal Connect, and they've seen an increase in donations both from not just a pure pounds perspective but also the number of food businesses that can start donating.

So both in San Antonio and in Austin, for example, it really goes to help food businesses that don't have a lot of food all the time. Now they can easily post that donation on Meal Connect and it sort of lowers the operating costs, for lack of a better term, for somebody in our network to be alerted to go pick it up because technology is sort of doing the heavy lifting of all that coordination.

When I think about that sort of in aggregate, there are billions of pounds wasted every year and over 40 million people face hunger. With thinking about leveraging technology solutions like Meal Connect, we can really work to solve this problem. "

Justin Block is the director for retail information services at Feeding America.


Video: Meal Connect

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