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New app will let you give your leftovers to poor people if you don’t want them

Start-ups have done a lot to build up the sharing economy, just look at Couch Surfing and Lyft. But would you trade your leftover lunch with a stranger?

Smartphone app Leftover Swap hopes so. The app that is expected to launch later this month will let users barter or give away their unwanted restaurant remainders. Users who don’t want their leftovers will snap a photo of their food and post it to the app, then anyone in the area can arrange a pick up or delivery.

Co-founder Dan Newman doesn't see it as a get-rich-quick opportunity, telling NPR, "[w]e're not gonna make millions."

But he does hope that it could have some positive societal impacts:

There's a bunch of studies about how much more food we need to produce for the world population by 2050, and how fertilizers are less effective and our current rate of producing food isn't going to suffice. Meanwhile, in the US we produce so much more food than we consume and so much is going to waste.

Even if your stomach turns a little bit at the idea of eating someone else's excess sushi, Newman has a good point. It's estimated that between 30 and 40 percent of the U.S. food supply goes to waste, with some 133 billion pounds of food going straight to the garbage in 2010.

But even with all that food being wasted, some 15 percent of U.S. households are food insecure -- meaning they don't consistently have enough food available for an "an active, healthy life for all household members."

Those households might not necessarily have access to the technology needed to use the app. But with smartphone prices dropping, more poor households are getting smartphones every year. This type of service could help some households stretch their meager food budgets.

Of course, it would be better if no family had to worry about where their next meal will come from. But for food-insecure families, leftover sharing might be better than nothing.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.



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Andrea Peterson · August 8, 2013

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