When it comes to diverting food past its expiration date from its grocery store to organizations that fight hunger, Maine ranks high. According LawnStarter.com, Maine is among the top five states to find uses for these foods, which are still perfectly edible; the “best before” label refers to quality, not safety. Given that Americans are said to throw away nearly 40 million tons of food a year (scary!!), and that 40% of that waste happens in grocery stores and restaurant businesses, Maine’s ranking is particularly commendable.
But even in Maine, for small bakeries, restaurants and cafes, donating just a few meals at the end of the workday to food rescue operations can be a logistical challenge.
Everything sold at Gross Bakery on Congress Street in Portland is baked every day the bakery is open. So come closing time, any brown butter chocolate chip cookies, cheddar jalapeño cookies, or custard buns that haven’t sold, no matter how delicious, are food waste. potentials. Pastry chef/Gross Bakery owner Brant Dadaleares investigated the donation of these day-old treats to local food banks. But to do so would require providing a list of all the ingredients for each pastry, a serious challenge when you’re offering an ever-changing menu.
“I understand the allergy and safety concerns behind this request, but it’s a very long process for what would amount to a very small food donation,” Dadaleares said.
Then, about 18 months ago, he was approached by a company that had developed a food rescue app, called Too good to leavewhich targeted his exact position: a small business owner looking to reduce food waste.
Founded in Copenhagen in 2016, the company has built an internet platform where small food operators can notify customers in real time of any good food that needs saving. Users who have downloaded the Too Good To Go app to their phone can locate participating vendors within 1 to 20 miles and purchase the food at a discounted price. They must pick it up before closing time.
The sales are organized around the concept of “Surprise Bags”, explains Allie Denburg, US head of strategy and planning for the company. Producers pack between $16 and $18 worth of food that needs to be moved to avoid being wasted and indicate their availability on the app for between $4 and $6. Too Good to Go manages the monetary exchange and charges food producers $1.79 per bag sold through the app, paying them the remainder of the price of all bags sold on a quarterly basis. The app sends customers reminders about their purchases with directions to stores and pickup times.
The company does not target food companies that donate large amounts of food to soup kitchens or food banks, Denburg said.
“We think about it a lot and strongly believe that there are many roles to play within the food rescue ecosystem to help solve the huge problem of food waste,” she said.
Too Good To Go (a mission-driven B-Corp) and local producers cover, at best, their costs in this food waste avoidance venture. But for customers, it’s a lot. “Who doesn’t want three good pastries for five bucks?” asked Dadaleares.
Since 2016, with over 65 million app users worldwide, Too Good To Go calculates that it has saved 169 million meals from being wasted. Since its launch in the United States in 2020, more than 3.1 million Americans and 11,000 food businesses have joined Too Good To Go, saving more than 3.3 million meals in cities from Boston to Los Angeles, says he.
Denburg says the company began marketing its app in Portland at the same time it launched in Boston because of Portland’s long-standing reputation as a sustainability-conscious city. “And since Portland is also a great city for food, we consider it a great choice,” she said.
And in a limited capacity, it was. Nearly 5,000 meals were diverted from waste steam and transferred to happy eaters in Portland, according to the company. But in my experience, the demand is far greater than the supply. I had to refresh the app nearly every hour for about two days to score a few goodie bags to sample for this article.
Denburg said his company aims to get about 5% of food businesses in a target city to participate in his app. According to food service inspection records maintained by the city, the number of food businesses in the city is over 800. To make this app a better tool, the platform must have at least 40 producers participating in the inspection. exchange. Currently, only 11 companies do so.
What can you do to help? Mention the app to food businesses you regularly frequent and use the app to test places you haven’t tried yet.
Day-Night Pumpkin Chocolate Croissant Pudding with Maple Whipped Cream
In my Too Good To Go surprise bag from Coffee Me Up on Cumberland Avenue, I had more croissants than I could comfortably eat with my afternoon tea. So I turned some (plus two I had in the freezer) into this cute (and Halloween-friendly) pudding.
For 6 to 8 people
Butter, to grease the baking dish
4 chocolate croissants
2 cups whipped cream
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter an 8-inch square or 6 x 10-inch rectangular baking dish.
Cut off the ends of the croissants and cut the bodies into 1-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices in the pan, tucking in the trimmings where they fit in the empty spaces.
Whisk together 1 cup cream, pumpkin puree, eggs, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, spice blend and salt in a small bowl. Pour the custard over the croissant slices in the baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and slide into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until custard is set and top of pudding is golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, beat the remaining 1 cup of cream and sweeten it with the remaining 1 tablespoon of maple syrup.
Serve the pudding warm with whipped cream.
Local food advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is editor of Edible Maine magazine and author of “Green Plate Special,” both a sustainable food column in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her cookbook from 2017. She can be contacted at: [email protected]