Food waste stretches across the supply chain from farm to fork. The natural and human resources needed to grow, package, transport, and prepare food that ends up in landfills are more resources lost than any of us can afford, especially in the face of food insecurity and hunger across America.
Americans throw away 25% of the food they bring home. 50 million Americans are food insecure. These are disparate problems within the food system, and new startups are developing innovative solutions to address both.
Online Marketplace for Saving Food
- Too Good to Go is an app designed to connect people to restaurants who are about to close out service. Food is sold inexpensively before the food has to be thrown away.
- Re-Plate, an app and food connection service that came out of the Open IDEO Food Waste Challenge, is connecting food donors with people in need in real time through an online marketplace.
- Food Shift’s Alameda Kitchen takes surplus food, and both feeds people and teaches people to cook. The kitchen is located within a homeless shelter, and the people who work in the kitchen are helping to provide their own meals, learning to cook and eat healthy foods, and learning some pre-employment job skills. Alameda Kitchen developed a number of resources for funding, including a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
Online Marketplace for Saving Produce
- Souper Seconds is using a wholesale model to get organic produce to restaurants and food manufacturers.
- Imperfect Produce will bring you a box of delicious ugly fruits and veggies on a subscription plan.
- Hungry Harvest is delivering recovered fruits and veggies in Baltimore, DC, and Philly. They received startup help from Shark Tank.
- Cerplus is working on a new grow-to-order system for small farms.
Spoiler Alert is a tech platform that combines many of the functions of these sustainable food systems startups. Buyers and sellers can connect; it has a system for food donation and networking with the food insecure. Funding has been through Fresh Source Capital, an investment firm specializing in sustainable food, and they have just secured $2.5 million in funding in their initial round from Acre Venture Partners.
Anaerobic Digesters and Biogas
The anaerobic digester is an excellent solution for the food waste we cannot recycle or reuse. Designed to turn food waste into biogas and digestate, farms are the proving grounds for the new anaerobic digesters. The National Grid Agribusiness Productivity Program in New York is one of a number of grant-based funding sources, many of which are economic development and government-funded.
Blue Sphere, a waste-to-energy developer, is building biogas plants, including a large anaerobic digester in Rhode Island.
Many challenges remain, including complex issues of sustainability and resource inequity. But the work of solving food waste in America is gaining momentum through creative thinking, unique funding opportunities, and the hard work of entrepreneurs.