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An app to fight food waste

Times being as they are, an app is being called into play in the war on food waste.

It’s called Flashfood. You use it to find items that are nearing their expiration or sell-by dates in a nearby grocery. You buy them by phone and then pick them up in the store.

As the website of the Toronto-based startup puts it, “Flashfood’s e-commerce app enables grocers to upload pictures of surplus items coming to the end of their shelf life—perishable items such as meat, produce, baked goods and dairy products—and list them for half price. With a few clicks on their smartphones, customers can order items and pick them up from a special fridge at the front of the store. Flashfood handles payments for retailers and keeps an undisclosed cut for itself.”

Flashfood “allows shoppers to receive major discounts on food items nearing their best before date, resulting in money saved and food waste reduced!” the site claims.

Flashfood is an example of purpose-driven entrepreneurship—starting a business to address a major social issue. The company’s site quotes a statistic from National Geographic in 2016: “If International food waste were a country, it would be the third leading cause to GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions behind the U.S. & China,” The site adds, “One third of the world’s food ends up in landfills, that’s 1.3 billion tons of food waste annually.”

The Midwestern U.S. chain Meijer BB #:104887 introduced Flashfood to all of its stores in February after a pilot program involving four of its stores in the Detroit area. Since piloting the app, these stores reported a 10 percent drop in food waste.

This week the SpartanNash BB #:104892 chain announced that it would be piloting Flashfood in five of its Family Fare stores in western Michigan. Hy-Vee BB #:101759 launched a similar pilot program in early 2019.

The Canadian chain Loblaws BB #:138169 launched a pilot program in 2018 and in 2019 extended it to 178 stores in Ontario and Quebec. It’s being offered at smaller retail chains throughout Canada.

The Flashfood app is ingenious in solving two problems at once: reducing the amount of food sent to landfills and helping customers economize.

The thriftiest shoppers I know don’t rely on Aldis or Walmarts. They keep an eye out for soon to be discarded items and scoop them up, often for savings of 50 percent. If you really are down to bare-bones economizing, this is your best bet.

It’s nice to know that in Canada and at least in some Midwestern chains, you can save yourself a lot of money and serve a worthy cause all at the same time.

Richard Smoley, editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published eleven books.