Appy Meals: Peer-to-Peer Food Sharing

The NRDC estimate that 40% of food in the United States goes to waste and ends up in landfill, with Americans throwing away $165 billion annually and making rotting food the single largest contributor to methane emissions nationwide. What’s more, a reduction in food loss by as little as 15 % “would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables”.

For the most part, the problem is being tackled at the highest level, via legislation and campaigning, however a more elegant potential solution has been created in the form of ‘Leftover Swap’: a smartphone app that enables peer-to-peer sharing of excess food.

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Once downloaded, users can trade or donate leftovers by simply photographing them, naming it and posting to the app’s database; where nearby strangers can compete to swiftly take it off your hands.

Although images of someone’s dirty plate may be a little disgusting, the app provides an unmistakably attractive engagement platform for the 50% of US citizens who currently use a smartphone. With the potential to enable upwards of 316 million Americans, the creation of an effective instant feedback loop is an incredibly powerful tool in prompting instant cause and effect for the ‘greater good’ (and no doubt financial gain at some point along the way) that many brands are quickly cottoning on to.

Available on US iPhones from 30 August (and IOS soon after), the app’s co-founder Dan Newman acknowledges it is ostensibly something of an unusual idea, however firmly believes in the untapped potential such a service can provide:

“Once they realize they can grab a perfectly good box of mac and cheese from someone clearing out their cupboard, and how fun it will be to snap a picture of the half of a pizza they haven’t eaten, they’ll come around”

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Back here in Blighty, an expanding convenience food culture has left us almost as guilty as our American cousins, with 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink wasted every year. With similar landfill challenges keeping environmentalists and some politicians awake at night, it seems inevitable that ‘Leftover Swap’, or a similar incarnation, will soon take hold over here.

Clearly a mass shift in public perception is what’s really required to tackling this growing crisis and conceivable that the app may not quite cut the leftover mustard. However if peer-to-peer food sharing is embraced enough overseas, given enough corporate and governmental backing then who knows, maybe we’ll be awash by a culture of social food sharing.

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