Are Food Waste Apps Saving the Planet or Breeding Inequality?

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Recent statistics show that the UK alone wastes millions of tonnes of food each year, making it obvious that the way we shop and eat needs to change. The fact that there’s an app for everything means that, on the surface, it may seem that eating more sustainably couldn’t be easier, however is this the truth for everyone?

Considering the UK’s current food waste situation, many app developers have made it simple for foodies on the hunt for a bargain to buy high-quality food that would usually be wasted at a heavily discounted price. A popular example of one of these apps is ‘Too Good To Go’, which links customers to restaurants that have excess food and offers them a ‘Magic Bag’. A ‘Magic Bag’ contains food waste that is perfectly edible, but that stores and restaurants must throw out at the end of the day. However, you do not know what you are receiving until you pick it up from the restaurant. Having explored this clever app, it is clear to see why it could be a popular choice for sustainability-conscious foodies and even those who are just looking for a meal on a budget. In the Southampton area alone, ‘Too Good To Go’ boasts connections with Yo Sushi, The Mercure Southampton Centre Dolphin Hotel and a number of cafes, which all offer magic bags for under £4.

On the surface, these food waste apps may seem like a perfect solution, by helping us to become more sustainable consumers. The users of the app receive a heavily discounted restaurant-standard meal with a clean conscience and the businesses reduce their waste and overall costs. However, whilst this is a step in the right direction, it is only available to those with smartphones, raising the question of whether these apps breed inequality. Many may argue that the surplus food sold on these apps could go a long way to tackling food poverty if it were just given out to those most in need and that could arguably be one of its downfalls. Although the app goes some way to making food more affordable and sustainable, you still need to be able to own a smartphone or a tablet to use its services and those most in need may not have this luxury. It is important to remember that the purpose of these food waste apps is not to conquer food poverty but to create an engaging way to combat food poverty and to ease the impact of food production on the environment.

These apps are becoming increasingly popular and more than 22,000 restaurants and cafes have signed up across 11 countries and 120 towns. Over 15 million meals which would’ve been wasted have been rescued by ‘Too Good To Go’ alone, so it is definitely a step in the right direction, however it is only a very small step on a very long journey to sustainable food production.

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