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Two new apps aim to reduce food waste in the Denver metro

Posted at 4:53 PM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 21:06:41-05

DENVER — Two new mobile apps aim to reduce food waste in the Denver metro area.

When Kenlys Otten first opened Cake Sugar World Bakery, it was an all-online operation where she baked what was ordered. She opened a retail location last year. With the addition of walk-in clients, it became very unpredictable to know how much product would be left on the shelves at the end of the day.

"It's something you can never control," Otten said.

Otten would give away what she could, but in other cases, she was forced to toss leftover food in the trash.

"I started getting sad because it's a lot of work. It's not only that, but we are organic. Our products are very expensive when it comes to ingredients," she explained.

On some days, she would toss up to $300 in product.

It's a common problem. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports about 40% of food produced in the U.S. is wasted. Experts say Denver is right on par with that, with costs that stretch far beyond financial.

"You're wasting all of the resources that went into producing, growing, transporting, refrigerating that food. That has a huge environmental impact," said Lesly Baesens, Denver Food Waste Program administrator.

Behind the residential sector, restaurants and grocery stores account for the most food waste. Otten recently teamed up with the app Too Good To Go.

"We connect businesses who have surplus food at different points throughout the day directly to consumers to purchase that food at a pretty steep discount," said Sarah Soteroff, a spokesperson with Too Good To Go. "We want to help businesses recoup some of the lost revenue."

Customers find participating businesses and can buy surprise bags of surplus food that would typically go to waste. The contents of the bags can range from a random assortment of groceries, ingredients from restaurants, or treats from a bakery. The cost can be up to 50% off of the retail price.

"Not only is it stop the waste but stop the hunger. Because some people may feel like, 'Oh, I wish I can have this dessert.' Well, now you can," said Otten of being able to sell her excess products at a more affordable price through the app.

Nonprofits have been busy developing apps to help tackle food waste, too.

"The fact that there are other apps and other organizations that are working toward the goal, that's just exciting to hear," said Hasan Robinson, app program coordinator for the We Rescue app.

We Rescue connects excess food in the community to its parent nonprofit, We Don't Waste, and other community organizations that handle food distributions.

Restaurants, delis and grocery stores can post their extra food to the app, and volunteers who download the app can click on one to help transport it to charities.

"So far this month while it's been open, we've recovered 61,000 servings of food," said Robinson.

Every little bit helps. Experts say having solutions right on a cell phone can be a good start.

"I think having a variety of different apps is actually a good thing. I believe that, sadly, there's so much food that does end up wasted that having different solutions that may work for different businesses is a good idea," said Baesens.

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