Flashfood and Too Good To Go apps help fight inflation and food waste

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When Susan Teaford thinks about food, she turns to an app on her cellphone to check what’s nearing its expiration date at her nearby grocery store.

Herbed cheddar cheese for $5 instead of $10? At this price, why not give it a try, she says.

Chicken breast fillets, all natural, marked $10.54-$5.20? No problem, it can be stored in the freezer and eaten later.

But his favorite score so far with the Flashfood app – which gives users access to groceries close to their expiry date and heavily discounted – has been a leg of lamb. Reduced from $29 to $16, it was a bargain she couldn’t resist. She dined there with potatoes and mint.

“I try new things. I keep it out of landfills and save money, so what’s not to love,” said Teaford, a retired business analyst in systems and programming, who heard talking about the Flashfood app a few months ago at a Giant Food in Falls Church, Virginia, and downloaded it there. Teaford, who recycles and drives an electric car, uses Flashfood because its mission aligns with its values, but also saved $240 on groceries.

Flashfood, which has 2.5 million users, is one of a series of new apps aimed at reducing food waste by connecting people to grocery stores and restaurants with foods that are unsold or near their best before date. With the cost of food rising more than 11% in August from a year earlier, some consumers are also turning to these apps to lower their grocery bills.

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Chuck Waterhouse shops with the Flashfood app at a Food Lion outside of Wilmington, Delaware, and says he finds the best meat deals “at terrific prices compared to what’s happening with the inflation”.

A pack of bacon for $4.99 instead of $9.98, he said. Overall, he saved $840 on groceries, according to the app.

“You always check the app late at night, in case you missed things added during the day,” Waterhouse said. “And you always check it in the morning because they add stuff in the morning. You need to make a plan to check it out.

Waterhouse, a biometrics technician, travels locally for work and pulls out the app based on where he’s headed that day to search for the best food deals. With a cooler in his car and gel packs to keep his food cool, he’s good to go. At home, he uses a vacuum sealer on food to preserve it, then throws it in the freezer until he wants to cook it.

“We took the discount display and put it on your phone,” said Josh Domingues, CEO of Flashfood, a Toronto-based company he founded in 2016, which claims to have embezzled nearly 50 million pounds of food from landfills and saved shoppers. $120 million through partnerships with over 1,400 grocery stores in Canada and the United States.

Through the app, shoppers browse images of pasta, yogurt, imitation crabmeat and anything nearing its best before date at participating grocery stores. The item’s original price is crossed out and the new price is shown with its expiration date. Consumers add their products to their virtual shopping cart, pay through the app, and then pick them up in store. All items are made available before their expiration date and the average discount is over 50%.

Around DC, more than 18,000 Flashfood shoppers look for deals at participating grocery stores, including through a pilot program at a handful of Giant Food stores. The app was launched in the region last fall and the company announced its availability in other stores in August. So far, they’re all located in northern Virginia, while the Maryland sites are clustered closer to Baltimore. Domingues has expansion plans.

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Selling food through apps can also help stores and restaurants recoup some of the billions of dollars lost each year through food waste. Retailers are also bringing unsold and soon to expire products to pantries and food banks, but many of the items they sell on food waste management apps aren’t suitable for donation because they’re perishable or just too small. like six sandwiches, which could end up in the trash, said Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED, a nonprofit group focused on ending food loss and waste.

We, the Pizza is one of 400 restaurants, bakeries and cafes in the DC area on Too Good To Go, another food waste management app, selling leftover food in “goodie bags” for about a third of its retail value. The app came to the DC region in March 2021 after launching in Copenhagen five years earlier. It is now present in 17 countries and has 3 million users in the United States.

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To reserve a surprise bag, Too Good To Go app users tap their mobile phone, pay for the food through the app, and then collect it within a certain time frame. Loot bag costs typically range from $3.99 to $5.99.

Pizza chain We, the Pizza has been offering goodie bags from its U Street location for more than a month and from its Capitol Hill store since Monday with more to follow, Robert Earley said, Director of Operations for the pizza chain.

His goodie bags usually contain three slices of pizza and an order of garlic knots — an $18 value for $5.99, he said. The company has also worked in recent years with Food Rescue, another app-based group that transfers excess food from local businesses to nearby nonprofit groups.

“Between the two, we have no food waste,” Earley said of the U Street and Capitol Hill locations.

District Taco has saved 5,890 meals from being wasted since May, when it launched on Too Good To Go, said Melanie Koch, marketing director for the restaurant chain. Its loot bags offer everything on the menu, including burritos, tacos, salads and vegan options.

“If we didn’t offer the goodie bags, the food would have to be wasted, so we took the initiative to research how we could save those meals and help our community at the same time,” Koch said in an email.

Overall, DC area consumers and businesses have saved more than 130,000 goodie bags since the app launched just over a year ago, said Claire Oliverson, US communications manager for Too Good To Go.

“I almost don’t even think of it as food scraps,” said Fox Pfund Pulliam, a graduate geography student at George Washington University who regularly uses the Too Good to Go app. what you would get.”

Kat Landers of northeast DC said she regularly shopped the discount shelves at grocery stores, so using the Too Good To Go app was a no-brainer for her. The 28-year-old said one of the best goodie bags she’s ever received was from a cafe where she spent around $4 and got a bag full of pastries.

“You can try new foods at a discount and make sure the food isn’t thrown away, which is a good feeling,” she said.

Buying food closer to its best before date can also help prevent food waste at home, as consumers know they need to eat it before it spoils, said economics professor Steve Hamilton. at California Polytechnic State University. But he wondered if the loot bags would “move the needle on food waste”.

Much of the food waste is due to poor meal planning, he said. “You have to know what you’re getting.”

Food insecure households

Craig Gundersen, a professor of economics at Baylor University, said the apps could help food-insecure people and those on the margins, who can use them at grocery stores or to buy discounted food at restaurants. restaurants.

“The more food we can get to people, the more resources it frees up in food banks,” Gundersen said. “So that frees him up for other people.”

1 in 5 Flashfood shoppers are food insecure, meaning they’ve gone without meals in the past two weeks, according to a company survey in April.

“Many low-income people are benefiting from being able to buy food at a very good price,” Gunders said. “I think in that sense the app can serve to address food insecurity just by the price it offers.”

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