Food waste and insecurity have been rising steadily over the past few years. Canada alone creates 50 million tonnes of food waste a year, with one in eight households being food-insecure, according to an article by Made in CA.
Danish-made app, Too Good To Go, is fighting food waste one paper bag at a time. With the help of partners across Canada like Tim Hortons and Metro, Ottawa residents can enjoy a reduced waste lifestyle on a budget.
App-users can order “surprise bags” filled with unsold food at partnered stores for pick-up, kind of like Uber Eats but for a lesser price. The food consists of items that are just about to expire, while still being edible or fruits and veggies with aesthetic defects.
“I think it’s a great way to reduce food waste, but also address some of the symptoms of food insecurity, which would be really great,” said Abby Muir, coordinator of the food cupboard at Algonquin College. “From what I hear and what I’ve seen and experienced (food insecurity is) at an all-time high right now, with the cost of food and everything else.”
The app was founded as a start-up eight years ago and has since saved around 78.8 million meals according to their 2022 annual impact report, with 80,000 new store partners. It launched in Canada in July 2021.
One of those partners is an Ottawa bakery called Keepin’ it Vegan. They say they’ve sold around six or ten surprise bags a week since joining the app about a year ago, adding up to over 300 meals sold.
“We’re not in it to really make money. It reduces a lot of waste, which is what we appreciate,” said Eva Laflamme, co-owner of Keepin’ it Vegan. “It’s also nice to be able to just cut down on the losses rather than throwing it out or giving it away.”
She says the app also helps bring people into their business. “A lot of people who come in will either buy something else or they’ll come back and say, ‘I tried your stuff’ because it’s kind of expensive, so people are hesitant to try it.”
But, it could use some tweaks. “It’s just the management app’s a little bit slow (to load). That’s the really big deal,” Laflamme said.
Another Ottawa partnered store owner Francis Valentine Omotayo of Uplands Afri & Caribbean Store spoke about how the app has changed business.
“Instead of wasting food, it all has the growth and benefit of the public at large,” said Omotayo.
He also said the app helps to cut costs of food waste for his business, just like Keepin’ it Vegan.
“Instead of losing out on the products, at least it gets something back, which it covers the cost.”
Omotayo explains the way Too Good to Go has helped promote his business through their app. “They put the store on the site, which creates an awareness for people to know about this store.”
While the app saves meals to cut down on food waste, they also provide statistics on how much of a carbon footprint they produce. According to their 2022 impact report, the company reported 6564.5 metric tonnes of CO2 and equivalent greenhouse gases or tCO2e.
This number is further broken down into direct emissions, indirect owned emissions and indirect unowned emissions. Company owned facilities and services only take up around 333.19 tCO2e or around 5.1 per-cent of these emissions and the rest come from indirect unowned sources like employee commutes and purchased goods and services.
However, the app still has a long way to go.
Too Good To Go is only currently available in 17 countries: Denmark, France, Germany Spain, the US, the UK and Canada, to name a few. It’s only available in two continents: Europe and North America.
The app still plans to continue and develop over the coming years. Their plan is to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development goal reducing food waste by 50 per-cent by 2030, as outlined in their 2022 impact report.