According to the United States Department of Agriculture, up to 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted, yet 35 million people in the U.S. experienced hunger in 2019.

Instead of feeding hungry people, much of Americans’ food ends up in landfills, where it doesn’t break down properly and releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Plus, resources such as land, water, labor, energy are wasted in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food.

One company has a creative solution to food waste and addresses both access and affordability of healthful foods plus the environmental impact of sending food to landfills.

What is 'Too Good To Go'?

Founded in 2015, Too Good To Go is an app that allows its users to purchase surplus food from local restaurants and stores.

Nearly 160,250 cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and hotels are a part of the Too Good To Go network that has helped divert 148 million meals, according to the company’s website.

Hand-drawn illustration of Too Good To Go logo on a brown bag with fruits and veggies in the background

Right now Too Good To Go is available in 15 countries. The Danish company just expanded to the U.S. last year in New York City, Boston, Jersey City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. The company expanded to the West Coast in May 2021 and announced that they’re planning on expanding to more U.S. cities throughout 2022.

“Time is ticking,” Jonas Mallisse, Too Good To Go’s head of expansion in the United States, told Sustainable Brands.

“Climate change is real, and mitigating food waste is the best way to fight it. If you want to address food waste, you have to change mindsets. We need to in-spire people to take action also at home, not only in restaurants and bakeries.”

One of the company’s recent campaigns involved working with policymakers to educate people about the difference between “Best By” dates and “Use By” dates, which can cause confusion for consumers.

(A “Best By” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date, whereas a “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date, except for when used on infant formula. If the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

Additionally, Too Good to Go works with hunger-relief organizations such as food banks in every city it operates in to address food scarcity.

“Food waste and food security go hand-in-hand, and we have ambitious plans to work with several big organizations at the moment to see how we can make an even bigger impact there,” Mallisse said.

One of the best parts of the app is that it’s affordable — you can buy quality local food for under $3, making it a solution that anyone with a smartphone can take advantage of.

Where is Too Good To Go available?

Too Good To Go initially launched in Europe, but has since expanded to the United States and other parts of the world. Too Good To Go is currently in the following countries and cities, and is quickly growing to more:

Available in these countries:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • The Netherlands

Available in these U.S. cities:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York City, New York
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • San Francisco, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Washington, D.C.
  • ... and surrounding areas

How To Use Too Good To Go

1. Download the app

Too Good To Go is available as an app on iOS and Android. Once you've downloaded the app, you'll share your location and immediately see all Too Good To Go's partner shops.

Too Good To Go: 1. Find a local store and place your order through the app. 2. Collect your meal at the store at specified time. 3. Enjoy your meal that little bit more knowing you have just helped reduce food waste.
Illustration by Carra Sykes for The Goodnewspaper

2. Browse for food and businesses that stand out to you.

Screenshots of the Too Good To Go app on iPhone, showing available Surprise Bags

We recommend beginning by going through the Browse tab and looking for favorite local restaurants and shops that look interesting to you, marking them as 'favorites' as you go along. This will make it easier to quickly find deals in the future.

As you scroll, you'll see that some offerings are already sold out for the day while others aren't available yet. One thing we love about Too Good To Go is that it doesn't encourage shops to overproduce for the app. Shops will usually only have a few leftover meals — and they only sell that many. When they're sold-out, they're sold-out.

(This is why we also recommend turning on notifications for the app, and regularly checking the app. You never want to miss out on a delicious deal and a chance to reduce waste.)

3. Reserve your 'Surprise Bag'

Screenshot of iPhone version of Too Good To Go app showing the checkout process for reserving a Surprise Bag at a local restaurant

When you find an offering that's available, you'll be able to tap on it to see more information:

How much does this meal normally go for compared to now?
(Usually it's big savings!)

What time can I pick it up?
(Often it's at the end of the day before closing.)

Anything else you need to know?
(Allergies, ratings, should you bring your own to-go container, etc...)

Once everything looks good to you, go through the checkout process to reserve the meal. Again, you'll be reminded what time you can go pick up your food. There's usually a window of time — and you've got to make sure you show up within those parameters.

4. Pick up your order

A shop worker hands a Too Good To Go 'Surprise Bag' to a customer
Photo by Les Kaner, Courtesy of Too Good To Go

Head over to the shop within the specified timeframe. Once you arrive, you'll usually just go up to the front counter and say that you have a Too Good To Go order to pick up.

Depending on what you ordered, your order may take some time. For example, the coffee shop next door to my house uses Too Good To Go to offer up their pastries at the end of the day. I usually walk in with my Too Good To Go reservation and am able to walk out 30 seconds later. But I've also ordered from restaurants where I arrive and they tell me what they can make with their leftover ingredients. They offer me a few options and then prepare the meal of my choice over about 15 minutes. Every shop and Surprise Bag is a little bit different.

At the counter you'll show your Too Good To Go app and mark the deal as "redeemed".

5. Enjoy

Lastly, you'll walk out of store triumphantly, enjoy your food, and get to brag to your friends about how you saved money and the planet.

More Ways To Reduce Food Waste

If you're looking for more opportunities to reduce food waste, we have a few ideas for you:

  1. Research how you can compost in your community. Some cities will have curbside pickup for your compost, while in other communities you may need to find a community garden or create your own backyard compost pile.
  2. Beyond Too Good To Go, several other companies are working to reduce food waste such as Imperfect Produce, Pulp Pantry, or SOULMUCH. (Whatever you order, make sure prepare, eat, and enjoy all the food so nothing goes to waste.)
  3. Find more ways to reduce food waste in your life:
    Commit to eating your leftovers.
    Learn about what expiration dates actually mean.
    Only buy what you need.
    Find places in your community to give back and donate food if you buy too much.

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