You’ve thrown a party and have a ton of leftovers — there’s no way you’re going to be able to work your way through them before they go bad. You’ve begun to bake brownies and suddenly realize you’re short on flour. You’re on your way out of town for a few weeks and the groceries in your fridge will surely spoil by the time you return. What do you do?
People who find themselves presented with those dilemmas now have a new high-tech way of resolving them: food-sharing websites and apps. A website is now up and running in Germany that facilitates the sharing of leftovers, helping individuals or businesses pass them along to those who need or want them — for free. Once you sign up — as more than 43,000 registered users across 240 European cities have done — you can post a “basket” of food that’s available by listing its contents or scan the site for a basket you’d like to claim. Then you arrange to meet — the site’s founders have set up “hot spots” — and voila! It’s like Airbnb crossed with borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor.
One of the site’s cofounders, Cologne (Germany)-based filmmaker Valentin Thurn, said he created Foodsharing.de not only to solve individual problems, but also to tackle food waste on a broader scale. “On the way from the farm to the dining-room table, more than half the food lands on the dump — most of it before it ever reaches consumers. For instance, every other head of lettuce or potato.” The website for Thurn’s 2010 documentary film Taste the Waste explains.
Thurn told NPR that because food sharing involves a health risk, he and his cofounders worked to “establish some rules” to keep users safe. These would be especially important for “easily perishable food such as fish, poultry, raw egg dishes and prepared dishes, as well as medication,” the Foodsharing.de site notes. Furthermore, it implores users to “please use the expiry date, but also your eyes, nose and knowledge, to avoid offering food that is no longer edible.”
Leftover sharing has gone high-tech in the United States as well. A group of Arizona State University students have launched an app, FlashFood, that helps connect businesses seeking to donate leftover food with the food insecure. The students receive an alert when a business wishes to make a donation, pick up the food and transport it to local community centers, schools and churches. An alert is sent out to those who’ve signed up, letting them know the food is available. Similarly, San Francisco-based CropMobster Community Exchange is leveraging social media to turn agricultural and food surplus into nourishment for people who need it. In Seattle, the free app LeftoverSwap helps diners trade or give away their surplus food by snapping and uploading photos to its database.
So, FN Dish readers, what do you think of the idea of sharing your leftovers with strangers? Is the idea genius or just gross? Would you use one of these sites or apps to give your leftovers to a stranger — or eat food from a stranger yourself?
We’re curious to hear your thoughts. Please chime in!