Don’t want to waste food? There’s an app for that!

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food waste

It’s undeniable that food waste is a serious issue, but the gravity of the issue may not be so clear to most people. It has been estimated, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that in the year 2010, there was 34 million tons of food waste, which accounted for 14 percent of total municipal waste.

What’s the big deal? Not only are there many people starving in the country, let alone the world, there is also an environmental problem with wasting food. The EPA shares on their website:

When food is disposed in a landfill it quickly rots and becomes a significant source of methane — a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Landfills are a major source of human-related methane in the United States, accounting for more than 20 percent of all methane emissions. Reducing, recovering, and recycling food waste diverts organic materials from landfills and incinerators, reducing GHG emissions from landfills and waste combustion. The use of recycled food waste (compost) has many environmental benefits such as: improving soil health and structure; increasing drought resistance; and reducing the need for supplemental water, fertilizers, and pesticides.

[The benefit] of food waste reduction, donation, and composting is improved sanitation, public safety and health for both your facility and community. Food wastes dumped in standard trash cans and dumpsters in the back alley of a home, store or restaurant can attract rodents and insects, – as well as generate bad odors. By placing food scraps in a closed, leakproof, durable, and reusable container, and having it frequently picked up for donation or composting you can significantly reduce, and even eliminate the these problems.

But now there is an app that could help decrease food waste. A group of students from Arizona State University have found the solution in an app that connects people with extra food to those who are hungry. The students–Ramya Baratam, Steven Hernandez, Katelyn Keberle, Eric Lehnhardt, Loni Amundson, and Jake Irvin–have created a mobile food recovery network called Flash Flood that is powered by social media and expected to be up and running in the Phoenix area by 2013.

How does it work? Essentially, the social media application allows restaurants, caterers and other organizations with excess food to contact local community centers and donate the food. The community center then has the opportunity to pick up the food and alert recipients that a donation can be expected in the near future.

“One in five children in America goes to bed hungry every night, and FlashFood’s home state of Arizona has the third highest rate of child food insecurity in America,” write the innovative students on the FlashFood blog. “Yet one third of the available food in the U.S. is wasted. Our team believes that we can do better.”

If you’re looking for a way to lower the amount of food you waste, then go to the EPA’s website to see how you can donate food to food banks and rescue programs or how you can donate your food discards to be used as animal feed.