Food waste in our world of limited resources is happening at a huge scale: up to a third of all food produced ends up as waste!
That figure is a commonly thrown around number, and fact-checking the data leads to the UN. More specifically, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which points out that this is the full supply chain of food being counted, from production, harvest, storage, cooling, down to final household consumption. It's a banana tree flattened by a hurricane, a bunch of bananas that have fallen off a truck, to a single banana left uneaten and spoiled.
In Europe, one option comes in the form of apps that help hungry consumers buy up food that would otherwise go to waste, from restaurants, bakeries, cafés, and supermarkets - at heavily discounted rates. There are two main apps currently operating in Europe, Too Good to Go and ResQ Club. (previously merged with MealSaver). Too Good To Go was founded in 2015 and has saved nearly 3 million meals, while ResQ Club went live from Finland in early 2016, and has saved more than 700,000 portions so far.
Too Good To Go operates out of Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, while ResQ Club currently has a slightly more Scandinavian focus, with operations in Finland, Germany, Netherlands, and Sweden.
What the app is like to use
While both have a similar concept, Too Good To Go currently has a much more significant presence in Berlin currently, and I haven't yet found an opportunity to use ResQ Club personally - yet - which is why this review will focus on Too Good to Go.
There are a huge number of outlets listed on the app, from the omnipresent "Bäckereis" found on every corner in Berlin, to cafés, restaurants and even hotel buffets. Most offers range in a price between 2 EUR and 4 EUR per portion - a reasonable discount on the full price that you might expect to pay.
How does it work?
Getting involved is as simple as opening the map, finding food that looks right for you, and reserving an order and organising payment - all through the app. You then go and collect the food at the allocated hours at the store, showing the app to the employees who will hand over your order. Each listing on the app specifies whether the portions will come pre-packaged (meaning you get what you're given) or whether you're able to pick and choose from all of their leftovers.
While there is a huge range of different food available (in Berlin at least), pick-up is only available outside of business hours for places like restaurants and cafes. So while you're definitely saving food that was going to go to waste, when it comes to what you get, its just the luck of the draw and you have to be flexible. Bakeries generally start their offers at 6pm, for example, some might only have sweet pastries left over when you arrive, other bakeries will have a bundle of still excellent sandwiches to hand over. That makes planning your dinner, for example, a little tricky. Unless you're a three croissants-per-night kind of person (no judgement!). And there's nothing stopping you saving this stuff for breakfast, of course.
There's a great pizza place nearby me that always has offers, but quite fairly, they only make their offer available between 11:30pm to midnight. If you want to be in bed by then, it's a little difficult to wait around just to save that leftover food, even when it's delicious. I've also made a purchase and gone to get it, only to find the shop closed with the owners on holiday. In that case, it's just a mixup where someone has forgotten to pause or cancel the recurring offer.
None of these drawbacks are enough to deter me from regularly using and enjoying the app though. Want to know where the best food is, and avoid any disappointments? A big clue to knowing if a store has a better than usual offering is simply the number of hearts that other people have given the store.
Oh, and one more important point: so far, everyone has been happy to let me take my own reusable bags and containers - helping cut down on plastic waste - but they'll also give you a bag or container of some kind if you forget as well.
And Too Good to Go is part of a global move towards turning food "waste" back into... just food, feeding the hungry and doing something for the environment too - joining Denmark's WeFood and Germany's SirPlus (both supermarkets selling only waste food) and Feeding India, a startup distributing leftover food to the country's most needy.