Tonight, Annekathrin Fiesinger probably won’t cook. Instead, she’ll use her smartphone to check nearby restaurants, hotels, and bakeries in Berlin, Germany, for discounted food—meals that otherwise might get thrown away. She’s part of a growing movement: using technology to reduce food waste.
Studies show that about one third of all food ends up in the garbage. Add that to the energy and resources required to cook meals that end up in the trash, and you have a big problem. “We cannot go on,” Fiesinger says, “with all this wastefulness.”
Jesus was concerned about food waste too. Remember the feeding of the 5,000? He told His disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12 NIV) Of course, His purpose was displaying His power to provide perfectly and abundantly. But managing resources well is always an outworking of wisdom.
Reducing food waste is a big deal in Germany. It’s catching on in other European countries too, where consumers and business owners use leftovers before buying or making something else.
Waste-not concepts include online forums encouraging food-sharing with neighbors and store alerts about marked-down, nearly expired groceries. Another trendy option is an app that directs people to purchase food that might otherwise get tossed.
Fiesinger uses “Too Good To Go,” Europe’s most popular app for finding discounted unsold food. The app accesses a phone’s GPS to signal the user about locations and types of extra food for sale.
“It’s super easy: just download the app and, on your way home, pick up what you like best,” Fiesinger explains while scrolling through photos of veggies, pastries, and unsold lunch specials.
About 10 million people currently use “Too Good To Go”—with more than 5,000 daily downloads in Germany alone. It’s popular in Denmark, France, Britain, and Poland too. One estimate suggests the app has saved over 14 million meals from the trash heap.
Similar food-sharing apps include FoodCloud, Karma, and Olio. Of those, only Olio is available in the United States.
A growing number of German businesses participate in app-based plans. Most charge about half the original price for a meal. Some donate their unsold food to charities that distribute it to the homeless or those in need.
For dinner, Fiesinger selects a pasta dish from a nearby restaurant. She completes her entire transaction on her phone. In Berlin, “there’s something waiting for you on every corner,” she says.
Restaurant owner Armin Doetsch happily participates. “We often have left-overs,” he says. “Rather than tossing it, we prefer to give it away, even if it’s only for little money.”