A new mobile app that’s intended to help reduce food waste in your local community while solving hunger has just been rolled out by a Pasadena-based startup that two friends, both of them software programmers, launched recently to help mitigate global warming and climate change.
The app, called NextPlate, allows restaurants and food shops to sell surplus food items at up to 50 percent off at the end of the day so the businesses don’t have to throw them out.
Garwing Lai, a master’s degree student at USC, said he and friend Andrew Yeh sharing an interest in building a startup that would give back to the world. The two friends sat over lunch one day, and decided to set out on a common journey.
“I started NextPlate with my partner in March at USC, and we’re currently expanding into Pasadena,” Lai recalls. “I believe NextPlate is a platform that is hugely beneficial.”
Before NextPlate, Lai and Yeh had come up with a platform called AfterFarms, whose initial concept was to rescue ugly produce from farms and sell them as mystery bags to customers. They later decided the logistics of neighborhood delivery or having customers drive long distances to farm locations was not promising, so they found another way to help reduce food waste: through restaurants.
The co-founders discovered that food services including restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, and cafes often throw away good food that doesn’t sell through. In most cases, any forgotten orders, kitchen mistakes, or surplus food are thrown away, the NextPlate founders said.
“While food waste is one of the top contributors to global warming, one in five individuals in Los Angeles are facing food insecurity,” a statement on the NextPlate website says. “With NextPlate, we can help bridge this gap.”
In the U.S., food waste is one of the top contributors to climate change. The U.S. alone wastes up to 40 percent of good and edible food every year. Based on estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, just 31 percent of food loss at the retail and consumer levels corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010.
“When restaurants and bakeries purchase too much inventory or produce too much food that they cannot sell by the end of the day, the food is usually wasted,” Lai said. “Over time, the amount of food that merchant’s waste equates to a huge contributor to climate change, which is about six to 10 percent of all greenhouse gasses.”
NextPlate’s app is similar to a popular supermarket app that points to a “soon to expire” section where food items are sold at a huge discount. Using NextPlate’s platform, customers would be able to purchase meals at affordable prices while helping reduce the amount of food waste in their community, the company statement said.
Lai and Yeh launched the app at a USC event a few months back, and it has grown in popularity ever since.
In Pasadena, NextPlate is working with some local bakeries and restaurants, such as Tartine Bakery, Valentine Sweets, Delight Bakery, and Dirt Dog and is looking for more partners.
“We have also gone around talking to locals about our idea and they seem to love the mission that we are partaking in,” Lai said.
To know more about NextPlate, visit www.home.nextplate.app.