Written by Andrew Seale
Food waste is an epidemic. Millions of tonnes of otherwise edible food end up in landfills, costing Canadians upwards of $30 billion each year.
“When you start to dive into the numbers surrounding food waste, it quickly becomes obvious that food waste is a huge contributor to CO2 emissions and climate change,” explains Josh Walters, co-founder of Feedback, a digital marketplace for surplus meals from some of Toronto’s favourite restaurants. “Everything from resources that go into producing the food to the transportation of the food, and then the food rotting in landfills – all contribute towards the emission of greenhouse gases.”
It was an epiphany inspired by a stack of end-of-day pizzas that inspired Walters to tackle the problem. “In Europe travelling with some friends, we went for late night pizza and when the shop was closing up the owner offered all the pizza he had left at a fraction of the price.”
Being so-called “poor students” they bought it all and ate it over the course of a few days. “That was the a-ha moment where I realized restaurants all over the world are throwing out perfectly good food at the end of the night,” says Walters. “And there's no way to connect people like me and my friends with these restaurant owners who have a surplus of food and are willing to sell it for less.”
All of a sudden he started seeing food waste everywhere – not just the end-of-life pizzas in the windows, but the cold-pressed juices on the shelves, the fully-stocked hot and cold bars in grocery stores. He realized maybe there was a way to use technology to crowdsource a solution. He brought the idea to his cousin Ben Walters, who was working in management and consulting, and the two mulled it over.
The Feedback App was launched in 2017. The app lets users browse through time-specific promotions from more than 350 restaurants, order a meal, and arrive at the given pickup window to get their food.
“We have restaurants like Kupfert and Kim that really bake sustainability into their entire business model… we also work with restaurants like Popeyes where you don't necessarily think about the sustainability aspect or you feel they are not concerned with that,” says Walters. The thing about food waste, he explains, is all restaurants can relate, be it for financial or sustainability reasons.
Walters says he’s happy to work with a restaurant regardless of whether they’re socially motivated or financially motivated. “Building that foundation of restaurants helps us get more people involved and moves us closer to our mission which is to reduce food waste and make food more affordable and accessible to people across the city.”
Feedback, which is a part of the Climate Ventures incubator run out of the Centre for Social Innovation, also matches purchases through the app to Second Harvest donations, food security being another challenge exacerbated by food waste.
“Climate change is a huge one but then you look at things like food security and the number of people who don't get enough food combined with the amount of food that's wasted, it’s mind-boggling,” says the Feedback co-founder.
Walters sees an opportunity to leverage their software by packaging it and selling it to restaurant owners to offer time-specific deals, track inventory, and discounting food. It’s part of a trend towards dynamic pricing that lends itself well towards food, where meals can be priced to sell rather than get thrown away.
“People want to do something, they don't always know the best way to do it,” he says. “So by creating a convenient way for them to contribute it makes it that much easier for them to feel good about eating out.”
Photo Credit: Cameron Bartlett (www.snappedbycam.com)