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Inflation is driving the cost of food higher, yet the amount of food we continue to waste is just awful. Can we address both problems at once? An app for your mobile phone called Too Good to Go aims to do just that. TGTF connects consumers with stores and restaurants that have surplus food at the end of the day. Users can choose to receive meals, groceries, baked goods or produce in “surprise bags” of food that cost one-third the retail price. To find out more, I invited Sam Kashani of TGTG’s Canadian operation to do a Q&A by e-mail. Here’s an edited version of our exchange.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the Too Good to Go app?

A: I’m the Canadian manager of Too Good To Go, the world’s largest marketplace for surplus food. Think of businesses such as restaurants, cafes, bakeries, grocery stores. Consumers can go in during a defined pickup period and collect the surplus food through what we call a surprise bag. The consumer wins because they get a delicious meal at an incredible value, and the businesses win because they avoid throwing out their food and generate incremental revenue. Most importantly the planet wins because there’s one less meal being thrown out.

Q: Exactly how much food are we wasting in Canada? Do you have any numbers on wastage at the household level, and how Canadians compare to other countries?

A: In Canada, we waste nearly 58 per cent of the food we produce, which equates to 35.5 million tonnes of food. At a household level, Canadians waste over $1,700 worth of food annually. On a per capita basis, we rank third-worst in the world behind Belgium and Switzerland; on absolute tonnage, we are fourth worst in the world behind the United States, China and Mexico.

Q: The pandemic initially caused a wave of hoarding, often involving food products. How has this contributed to food waste?

A: The pandemic has created a lot of unpredictability and volatility which has resulted in more food being wasted. We know that a lot of food waste in Canada happens right in our homes, so hoarding naturally results in more waste. The pandemic has also meant a lot of changes for the restaurant industry, with sporadic openings and closures making it even more difficult to manage supply and demand and have the right ingredients to serve customers.

Q: A lot of the focus on food waste in households is on what people buy or cook and then throw away, uneaten. What can you tell us about the extent of food waste at the restaurant and grocery store level?

A: Just over 20 per cent of food waste in Canada happens at the household level, 25 per cent is at the restaurant level, with the rest happening during production, processing and distribution. The biggest challenge for local restaurants and grocery stores is to match supply and demand. That is a very difficult task as a local business operator needs to balance many variables and, in many instances and despite their best efforts, it is a near impossible task to perfectly match supply and demand.

Q: How fresh is the food available from Too Good to Go compared to buying it off store shelves?

A: The food provided on our platform is the exact same food you would have seen if you walked into the store to purchase it. So from a freshness or quality perspective, there really is no difference. Our goal is to ensure that when a store or restaurant closes at the end of the day, they are not throwing any unsold food.

Q: What cities does TGTG serve right now, and what are your expansion plans?

A: We are currently operational and saving meals from being thrown out in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, with plans to make our solution accessible to the rest of Canada in 2022.

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