No longer will you need to climb in a dumpster to salvage some perfectly edible (though technically past their expiration date) foodstuffs that have been prematurely discarded. Thanks to a forthcoming app called Leftover Swap, you can search for unwanted food on a central database where users can post images of their leftovers.
It's helpful for those on the other end of the transaction, too. Say you make way too much spaghetti and don't want to eat it every night for the next week. Throw a picture of it on Leftover Swap and trade it to people in your general neighborhood, or just let them snag it for nothing.
"You're hungry. And cheap. We understand," the app's website says. "Your cheap, local, and community-oriented meal is waiting."
It's sort of like a more efficient, less gross version of this Portlandia sketch:
The app's founders, former college roommates Dan Newman and Bryan Summersett, conceived the idea back in 2010, but shelved it until now. Unlike other tech programmers with aims of designing the next billion dollar app, the two say the impetus behind their creation was altruistic.
"We're not gonna make millions," Newman says. "[The environmental concern] is a big part of it. There's a bunch of studies about how much more food we need to produce for the world population by 2050, and how fertilizers are less effective and our current rate of producing food isn't going to suffice. Meanwhile, in the US we produce so much more food than we consume and so much is going to waste." [NPR]
Americans tossed out 36 million tons of food in 2011 alone, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While Leftover Swap won't reroute all that waste, it could at least send some landfill-bound morsels onto plates instead.
One potential problem is that unlike other apps that help you dump inedible items like old clothes, the goods shared through Leftover Swap come with a potential health risk. San Francisco health officials think the app might not only be dangerous, but also illegal if people swap food for cash.
From the San Francisco Weekly:
In San Francisco, it's illegal to sell food to the public without a permit, said Richard Lee, director of the Health Department's environmental regulatory program, and it could result in expensive citations — potentially a couple thousand dollars, or three times the original permitting fee. It could also lead to a much stiffer crackdown than the ones on Uber and Lyft for operating without state-issued livery licenses.
Leftover food is, in fact, a huge source of food-borne illnesses and other pestilence, Lee said. And in this case, there would be no way for officials to trace the source — they wouldn't know who originally produced the food and under what conditions. Even if it came from the cleanest, best-inspected restaurant in San Francisco, it could still have been handled by some grubby hipster with no hygiene standards. The Health Department discourages homeless people from eating food left on top of garbage cans for those exact reasons. [San Francisco Weekly]
Still, the app is expected to go live in August, and will be available for free.
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