If you’ve ever worked in a cafe, you’ve likely seen first-hand the large amount of food that gets dumped straight into the garbage at the end of the day. If you haven’t, then you’ve definitely walked by piles of trash bags on our neighborhood sidewalks, and maybe not realized that many of them contain still totally edible food. Around 20% of trash in NYC is actually, and unfortunately, food waste.
Now, a new app has launched in North Brooklyn to help connect everyday people to day’s end food at cafes, gourmet grocers and more—the app alerts you daily at the exact moment food is up for grabs at a much lower price. In our neighborhood, you can get discounted Polish home cooking from Polka Dot (726 Manhattan Ave), fancy donuts from Du’s (107 N 12th St), pastries and sandwiches from Woops! (both Williamsburg and Greenpoint locations), gourmet bread from Marlow & Daughters (95 Broadway), pizza from DiFara (at N 3rd St Market), and coming soon, even grocery items from the Key Food on McGuinness. There’s at least a dozen more shops and restaurants participating in the area, and lots more are signing on every day.
The app YourLocal was founded in Denmark three years ago, after Kasper Kastoft Nielsen and Sebastian Dueholm looked inside a Copenhagen bakery window at the end of the day and saw employees filling trash bags with bread and food. Pounds and pounds of delicious food was thoughtlessly being chucked into the garbage. It occurred to them that this enormous problem of food waste was happening all over the city, and the root of it was largely about logistics—if people knew when to come to the shops, then customers could be happily taking the food home at a cheaper price.
They tested out the app with a simple text message trial using an old iPhone and few shops willing to alert them when leftover food was available. They recruited about 100 people off the street to agree to receive texts at the moment when these shops were offering the discount. Right away, they had success—a local seafood grocer saw a line quickly form around the block with people waiting to get half price fish—food that the fishmonger would have just thrown away.
After successfully working with 250+ shops in Copenhagen and more than 150k downloads, the team decided to tackle food waste in a place where the problem was much bigger—New York. “The food waste here is immense,” says Sebastian. And why were Greenpoint and Williamsburg the best launch points for the service? “We need to have the businesses and users close to each other to interact and trade these goods,” he explains. North Brooklynites seem to have a more sustainable mindset than in other parts of the city, and as any local knows, it’s very neighborhood-y. Which is why most of us love living here.
Sebastian goes on to explain that they don’t want to get in the way of what City Harvest is doing with big retailers—really, YourLocal is about filling the food waste problem gap by connecting small businesses to locals. And the app has been a no brainer for most businesses since they get to make some cash when they wouldn’t have before. And for customers, they get a great deal because the shops don’t have to think about covering their costs when setting the price. “It’s all surplus,” Sebastian says. “The fact that everything is worthless in half an hour means the whole economics are fluid so that’s where we tap in.”
To start saving some cash, fighting food waste and supporting your neighborhood businesses, download YourLocal for iPhone or Android.