Americans waste up to 30 to 40 percent of food, an excess of up to $165 billion a year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Which is why a New York app developer is launching an app to help restaurants and grocery stores find customers who might pay for discounted food before it’s thrown away.
PareUp is an online platform that allows food vendors to list excess items at a reduced price, which is often food they’re unable to donate because of regulations or the items don’t meet the minimum bulk requirement for food banks or shelters.
“We want to change the cultural conversation around what it means to consume food and the life cycle of food,” co-founder Margaret Tung said. “Because we’re throwing out a lot more than needs to be.”
Tung, along with Jason Chen and Anuj Jhunjhunwala, created the app to both benefit retailers and consumers. Users can check in on available inventory each day and head to the store to purchase it. PareUp plans to take a small percentage of each transaction.
“A lot of people in food tech today are looking at production, consumption and distribution with all these delivery apps getting funding and attention like Grubhub,” Tung said. “We wanted to look at where people are not really spending that much energy … the next frontier to explore.”
Currently, the app is only available for food shoppers in New York City, but the startup is aiming to launch in Chicago, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. as well. The company has also received inquiries from retailers in London, Sydney and Toronto, too.
But for now, the biggest hurdle facing PareUp is changing the way in which people think of leftover food, according to Tung. Food that otherwise is headed toward the dumpster is not exactly appetizing.
The company is also hoping to launch a version for food banks or shelters, bridging the gap between nonprofits and food retailers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Though PareUp isn’t a silver bullet for food waste, it’s a step in the right direction to help retailers unload unused food and support nonprofit efforts.
“[We’re] just trying to pick up where they leave off,” said Tung said of food banks and shelters. “And even still the numbers are pretty huge. The market has enough room for everyone, at least right now.”