Flashfood and Too Good To Go apps help tackle inflation and food waste

When Susan Tyford thinks about food, she turns to an app on her mobile phone to check her nearest appointment at a nearby grocery store.

Cheddar Cheese with Herbs for $5 instead of $10? At that price, she said, why not give it a try.

Chicken Breast Steaks, All Natural, $10.54 to $5.20? No problem, it can be stored in the freezer and eaten later.

But her favorite score so far with the Flashfood app — which gives users access to near-time groceries at deeply discounted prices — has been a leg up on the pregnancy. Lowered from $29 to $16, it was a deal she couldn’t resist. I had it with potatoes and some mint.

“I try new things,” said Tyford, a retired business analyst in systems and programming, who learned about the Flashfood app a few months ago at Giant Food in Falls Church, Virginia, and downloaded it right away. Teaford, who recycles and drives an electric car, uses Flashfood because Its mission aligns with its values, but it also saved $240 on groceries.

Flashfood, which has 2.5 million users, is one of a series of new apps that aim to reduce food waste by connecting people to groceries and restaurants with unsold or close to better date foods. With food costs up more than 11 percent in August from a year earlier, some consumers are also turning to these apps to cut back on their grocery bills.

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Chuck Waterhouse does Flashfood app shopping at Food Lion outside of Wilmington, Del. And he said he finds the best deals with meat “which is offered at great prices compared to what happens with inflation.”

He said a can of bacon is $4.99 instead of $9.98. Overall, save $840 on groceries, according to the app.

“Always check the app late at night, in case you miss added items during the day,” Waterhouse said. “And always check it in the morning because they add things up in the morning. You have to make a plan to check it.”

Waterhouse, a biometric technician, travels locally for work and pulls up the app based on where you’re headed that day to find the best food deals. With a cooler packed in his car and some jelly packs to keep his food cold, he’s just fine. At home, he uses a vacuum sealer on food to store it and then tosses it in the freezer until he wants to cook it.

“We took the discount food rack and put it on your phone,” said Josh Dominguez, CEO of Flashfood, a Toronto-based company he founded in 2016, which says it has diverted nearly 50 million pounds of food from landfills and saved shoppers $120 million from Through partnerships with more than 1,400 grocery stores in Canada and the United States.

Through the app, shoppers browse photos of pasta, yogurt, imitation crab meat, and anything else that comes close to its best time at participating grocery stores. The item’s original price has been crossed out and its new price is listed with its best price date. Consumers add their products to their virtual shopping cart, pay through the app and then get them at the store. All items are made available before their expiration date, and the average discount is over 50 percent.

Around the capital, over 18,000 Flashfood . shoppers Look for deals at participating grocery stores, including through a pilot program at a few Giant Food stores. The app launched in the region last fall, and the company announced it would be available in more stores in August. So far, they are all located in Northern Virginia, while Maryland sites are clustered near Baltimore. Dominguez has plans to expand.

Refunds for retailers

Selling food through apps can also help stores and restaurants recover some of the billions of dollars lost in food waste each year. Retailers contribute unsold and near-expired merchandise to food pantries and food banks, but a lot of the items they sell on food waste apps aren’t suitable for donations because they are perishable or too small in size, said Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED, a nonprofit group focused on Ending food waste and food waste, like six sandwiches, can end up in the trash.

We, the pizzeria are among the 400 restaurants, bakeries and cafes in the metropolitan area On Too Good To Go, another food waste app, it sells surplus food in “surprise bags” for about a third of its retail value. The app came to the metropolitan region in March 2021 after launching in Copenhagen five years ago. It’s now in 17 countries and has 3 million users in the US.

The survey found that 1 in 3 people in the metropolitan area face food insecurity

To reserve a surprise bag, users of the Too Good To Go app tap their mobile, pay for the food through the app and then get it within a certain time. Surprise bags generally cost from $3.99 to $5.99.

Pizza chain We, the Pizza has been showing surprise bags from its U Street location for more than a month and at its Capitol Hill store starting Monday with more later, said Robert Early, the pizza chain We, the Pizza. operation manager for the pizza chain.

Their surprise bags usually contain three pizza slices and an order of garlic knots—$18 for $5.99. The company has also worked over the past few years with Food Rescue, another app-based group that funnels food surpluses from local businesses to nearby nonprofit groups.

“Between the two, we don’t have food waste,” Early said of the U Street and Capitol Hill sites.

Melanie Koch, marketing director for the restaurant chain, said the Taco District has saved 5,890 meals from wastage since May, when it launched at Too Good To Go. Her surprise bags offer anything on the menu including burritos, tacos, salads, and vegetarian options.

“If we don’t provide the snap bags, food will have to be wasted, so we took the initiative to research how we can provide these meals and help our community at the same time,” Koch said in an email.

Overall, DC consumers and businesses in the region have saved more than 130,000 surprise bags since the app launched just over a year ago. Claire Oliverson, Head of American Communications at Too Good To Go.

“I almost don’t think of it as leftovers,” said Fox Pfund Pulliam, a graduate student who studies geography at George Washington University and uses the Too Good to Go app regularly. “It seems like anything else you get.”

Kat Landers of Northeast D.C. said she regularly shopped shelves of discounted food inside her grocery stores, so using the Too Good To Go app was a no-brainer for her. The 28 year old said one of the best bags of surprises she ever got was from a coffee shop where she spent about $4 and got a bag full of pastries.

“You can try new food at a discount and make sure you don’t throw away the food, which feels good,” she said.

Steve Hamilton, professor of economics at California Polytechnic State University, said buying food close to its expiration date may also help prevent food waste in the home because consumers know they need to eat it before it spoils. But he wondered if the snap pouches would move the needle into the food waste.

He said a lot of food waste is due to poor meal planning. “You have to know what you’re getting.”

Food insecure families

Craig Gundersen, professor of economics at Baylor University, said the apps could help food insecure people, and those who are marginalized, who can use them at grocery stores or to get discounted food from restaurants.

“The more ways we can get food to people, the more it frees up resources in food banks,” Gundersen said. “So this frees it up for others.”

On Flashfood, 1 in 5 shoppers are food insecure, which means they haven’t eaten a meal in the past two weeks, according to a survey by the company. in April.

“A lot of people on lower incomes benefit from being able to buy food at a huge discount,” Gonders said. “I think in that sense the app can work to tackle food insecurity simply through the prices it offers.”

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