According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans waste about 30-40% of their yearly food supply, despite the fact that more than 50 million Americans don’t have enough food to eat on a daily basis.
Food waste is a problem all over the world, but one company has created a mobile app to tackle the issue in the United States. The PareUp app will be launched in New York City first, where, according to the PareUp website, 6.5 billion pounds of food are thrown away daily. And that’s just in the Big Apple.
The biggest wasters of food are ironically those who profit from it: restaurants and food retailers. PareUp’s app aims to connect the individual consumer with these businesses, allowing both parties the opportunity to buy and sell food that would otherwise go to waste. So restaurants and grocers are able to sell food they would normally throw away, while consumers are offered access to quality sustenance at a discounted price.
PareUp has created a win-win for all parties involved. And with food waste taking up the vast majority of space in America’s landfills, the environment wins as well.
So why is this food being thrown out in the first place? PareUp says that “retailers often toss food to protect their brands.” When a vegetable is misshapen, it doesn’t even make it onto the floor. When a sell-by date is approaching, the item is pulled from the shelf and tossed in the dumpster out back. Sometimes food is chucked solely because there isn’t enough room left on the display shelves. In most cases, this food is still entirely edible. “It’s still delicious,” PareUp says.
The obvious solution for this waste is to donate it to those in need through local shelters and food banks. But the food-safety regulations for many of these organizations disallow them from accepting it. Additionally, it often just doesn’t make sense for them in terms of the resources that go into collection and transportation.
Personally, I also think the donation solution reveals a bit of flawed, privileged thinking. Donating food to those in need is usually a positive idea, but if this “unusable” food isn’t good enough for the general public to consume — in the eyes of most restaurants, retailers, and members of society — why is it then okay for the underprivileged to consume? It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine doesn’t understand why the homeless shelter turned down her muffin stumps, left over from her Top of the Muffin to You! enterprise. Why should the homeless be robbed of the best part of the muffin?
The PareUp app seems to solve a lot of these donation woes by putting the responsibility in the consumer’s hands. It’s their choice if they want to purchase food that would otherwise not be served or sold on the business floor. It also offers a fairly private way of purchasing discounted food, which sadly is a sign of belonging to a “lower class” and a source of shame and embarrassment in Western society.
If this app comes to my area, I’ll certainly use it proudly. As a person who grew up where poverty and hunger were very present, I’m happy that PareUp is tackling the status quo and making use of a resource that’s quickly going to waste.