This App Wants To Help Restaurants Sell Off Their Leftovers

Food For All wants to do something good with the 43 billion pounds of food that's wasted annually

Food for All
Nov 08, 2016 at 10:45 AM ET

One restaurant’s uneaten foodstuffs are another person’s perfectly tasty dinner. Or at least they should be. A Boston entrepreneur has an app called Food For All aims to make this more of a reality, linking the some 25,000 to 100,000 pounds of food individual restaurants waste in a year with consumers who think it’s perfectly good eating, and are willing to pay for it.

The app, currently in the Kickstarter phase as a prototype (but operational in Boston), has raised nearly $12,000 of its stated $50,000 goal to date. Developed by MBA grad David Rodriguez, Food For All will let anyone seek out a participating restaurant — around 30 have signed up so far in Boston, and it has plans to expand to New York — and grab a portion of the day’s leftovers slated for the dump. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows this is perfectly fresh food that has no business in a landfill, and with goods discounted by as much as 80 percent, this could be a win-win for everyone involved.

The Kickstarter notes that some 40 percent of all food produce in the United States goes to waste. Restaurants, caterers, fast food and cafeterias, they say, toss a combined 43 billion pounds of food annually.

The app’s existence (and others like it—Too Good to Go is a similar app in the UK) begs the question of why restaurants haven’t been selling or donating unused food to the homeless for years now. But professor Nicole Civita, director of nonprofit Food Recovery Project, told Huffington Post earlier this year that it’s largely the fear of being sued — citing a survey by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance in 2014 that found that some 56 percent of chain restaurants said liability was the biggest source of their hesitation in giving away their edible throwaways.

Civita says that fear is unfounded, however. “There is no available public record of anyone in the United States being sued…because of harms related to donated food,” she said. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, signed in 1996, protects restaurants who donate food from litigation so long as it’s in good faith, complies with health inspectors, and there is no “gross negligence.” Still, there’s a perpetual myth that it’s illegal or dangerous.

Perhaps, then, an app that puts a clearcut transaction between consumers and restaurateurs will ease some of that anxiety, and then, individuals can either make a tasty dinner or donate it on their own. Both Too Good to Go and Food For All allow you to donate the food through the app to those in need directly.