“I believe that the best way to fight big causes like food waste is to make everyone part of the solution.”
Each year, we toss out one-third of the world’s food that is produced. That breaks down to $1.3 trillion worth of food each year. In honor of Earth Day, we’re spotlighting Lucie Basch, founder of Too Good To Go, an anti-food waste smartphone app that connects consumers to surplus food from local stores and restaurants. “It’s really this win, win, win concept where the store doesn’t throw away food anymore and where people can save food while getting three times the value of what they paid for,” Lucie told us. So far, Too Good To Go has saved 70.1 million meals since 2016 and is currently operating in 15 different countries, including the U.S. We spoke with Lucie about fighting food waste and the five simple ways you can be a part of the solution.
Katie Couric Media: Can you give people an idea of just how much food is tossed away each year?
Lucie Basch: Today we throw away one-third of the food we produce each year. That’s $1.3 trillion worth of food that gets tossed. Food waste is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. It has great consequences both on the environment and the economy. And socially speaking, it’s absurd to throw away the food we produce when we know today that 870 million people are underfed.
That’s where Too Good To Go comes in. What is Too Good To Go and how is it reducing food waste?
At Too Good To Go, we dream of a planet with no food waste; a planet where every food that is produced is actually consumed. What we want to do is to make everyone a part of the solution. Everyone is in touch with food every day, and we want to help them make a difference.
Download the app Too Good To Go, and you can view different meal partners around you. You then pay a small price — between $4 and $6 — and that at closing time, you can pick a surprise bag filled with food that is worth three times the value of what you paid for on the app. You can save a meal from a local store that is perfectly fine to be eaten but would have been thrown away.
It’s really this win, win, win concept where the store doesn’t throw away food anymore and gets new consumers, and where people — every one of us — can save food and get a great value.
What inspired you to start Too Good To Go?
I was working at Nestle Food Factory where I was producing chocolate bars, water, coffee capsules, and I realized how big food waste was. I truly believe today that the best way to fight big causes like food waste is to make everyone part of the solution.
One day I was passing a bakery and the baker was throwing away a lot of great products so I asked if I could have them, but they weren’t allowed to donate it. So I paid for it, and the baker gave me three times more than what I had paid for. That made a light bulb go off. This could actually happen every evening with every local food store. I then found out that other entrepreneurs had the same idea and had just launched an app in Denmark. I reached out thinking that if this was relevant in other countries we could actually build a mass movement all across the world every evening with every local food store. Five years later, we have saved 65 million meals thanks to that super simple concept.
42 million people in the U.S. have experienced food insecurity due to the pandemic, according to Feeding America. How does Too Good To Good compliment the work food banks and other food distributors are doing?
Food banks are doing an amazing job. We collaborate with food banks. Unfortunately there is no one player that could solve this. The issue is so big that we really need to build an ecosystem of different players doing different things to make a difference in the fight against food waste. We have a lot of local partnerships with food banks, and people can donate money on the app that will be directly transferred to food banks. That’s a big piece of fighting food waste and helping with food insecurity.
What we bring on board with Too Good To Go is to take anything that is left in order to end up with zero waste. It’s really those couple of bagels, sushi boxes, or those five slices of pizzas that are left at the end of the day that Too Good To Go uses to collect. That’s not the same food that the food banks can get to.
What can people do at home to make a difference and reduce food waste?
Download the Too Good To Go app: The reason why we created it is because it’s so simple.
Cooking: This is a really important part of fighting food waste. The less you buy ready-made meals, the more you actually cook and understand what you can make out of one product. For example, if you have one vegetable that is starting to look old, you can remove the bad part and cook the rest. The more time you actually spend in your kitchen, the less you’re going to end up wasting.
Shopping: When you go shopping, you need to be strategic. If you go to the store when you’re hungry, you’re going to buy a bunch of things that you don’t necessarily need. Having your shopping list and going to shop after a meal instead of before is crucial. You will end up buying less.
Understand the expiration date: Too many people today throw away products just because they are arriving at expiration dates or the expiration date has passed. Everyone needs to understand there are several types of dates:
- “Use By” dates: This is what you’re going to find on meat, fish, and some dairy. It’s placed on products that can develop bacteria that is problematic for your health. We recommend you respect the dates, however, you don’t need to throw away two or three dates before — which many people often do.
- “Best Before” dates: This is a completely different game. This is a quality factor. It’s better before that date, but it doesn’t mean that after that date you can’t eat it anymore. It’s likely still perfectly safe to eat, but the consistency, the color, the taste might be a little different. But there is no bacteria that is going to injure your health. So, you should really look at it, smell it, taste it — make a judgment using your senses.
Who is a woman that inspired you to do what you’re doing today?
For me, it hasn’t been one person but many of them.
Michelle Obama is super inspiring. She has shown me that you don’t have to choose between dedicating your life to your career or your family. You really can do both.
RBG is another one. She taught us to really take ego out of the way. I read her biography and realized that becoming a Supreme Court Justice didn’t happen easily. She really had to fight for it.
What’s a piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Understand your passion and just do it. Everything is possible as long as you follow what you’re passionate about.