Wasting food is something of which virtually everyone is guilty. While it’s easy to brush off as an inevitable part of life, in Canada alone, wasted food results in losses of $31 billion per year.
When you look at the whole picture (energy, water, land, labor, capital investment, infrastructure, machinery and transport), the total cost rises to over $100 billion annually. Those figures don’t even include losses from prisons, jails, hospitals and schools, because there isn’t reliable data on those spaces.
A Canadian based startup, Ubifood is looking to cut the amount of food going to waste with a clever smartphone app. Ubifood is built around the same concept as a “last minute deals” app, allowing retailers (Local restaurants, fast food shops, bakeries, and other venues) to show discount offers (and full menus), photos, and prices, and send notification messages to hungry users. The big difference, however, is that instead of the goal being to simply increase traffic, the goal is to decrease waste; the food sales posted by vendors are comprised of the excess supply they would otherwise throw out.
In order to find the best dining options for users, Ubifood uses geolocation to find the closest member venues. Users may choose between ‘Sweet’ or ‘Savory’ tabs. Once the user chooses their food, they can complete a purchase within two touches. The user then receives an on-phone voucher (with a short expiration time) which they present at the store to redeem their deal.
Although the app is accessible to everyone, one of the biggest benefits of the service is that it could enable more families to feed themselves on much thinner budgets. At the moment, Ubifood is only available in Montreal, Québec.
In the US, there are a few startups also helping to cut down on food waste. One such company is Copia. They’re like an Uber for food donations; the service enables businesses to arrange pickups online and Copia then distributes the food to verified non-profits. The service also has a portal where participating businesses can view profiles of the groups they helped.
Businesses can donate a variety of foods (raw or cooked, packaged, hot or cold); the only requirement is that they specify the amount and provide a description. Non-profits are able to accept or reject donation offers. When an offer is accepted, the non-profit can track their delivery in real-time.
Although food donations aren’t a new concept, the most notable component of Copia is that they make it easier for businesses to benefit from enhanced tax deductions and reduced disposal costs. The service makes money by suggesting an amount business should pay for a pickup.
As of publication, Copia has handled over 830,000 pounds of food, fed 691,000 people, and saved businesses approximately $4.7M. The service is currently only active in the San Francisco Bay area.
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