Awesome Anti-Food Waste App Finally Comes to the United States

Too Good To Go has launched in New York City and Boston, to start.

picking up a surprise bag
Picking up a Surprise Bag.

Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go is an innovative app that connects people with nearby restaurants that have surplus food to sell. By entering a location on your phone, you can see what's available around you on a given day and what time you can pick it up. It ends up being a perfect way for businesses to continue making a profit and people to save money, not to mention the planet benefiting from reduced food waste

Until recently Too Good To Go was only available in Europe, but starting on September 29, 2020 (and coinciding with the first annual International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste), it launched in the United States. So far it's only operating in New York City and Boston, with more than 450 participating businesses signed up so far, but no doubt it will spread further throughout these cities and eventually around the country as people realize what a smart idea it is.

The savings are significant. A YouTube review done by Luxe Minds showed a haul of food purchased through Too Good To Go. One of the items was a chicken parmesan dinner with accompanying pasta and sauce on the side, a dish that normally retails for US$19.50, but sold for $3.99 in this case. The savings were similar for a bag of groceries from a convenience store – roughly $17 worth for only $3.99.

Gaeleen Quinn, the East Coast director of Too Good To Go, told Treehugger that the app has helped many food businesses to cope with the uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said, "Predicting food supply has been trickier throughout the pandemic. Restaurateurs can use our technology to adjust their supply in real time based on daily sales, and so app users can always see the number of Surprise Bags available."

'Surprise bags' refers to the bags of food that are picked up after ordering and paying online. It turns out that buyers do not know exactly what they're getting in advance – a major detail that surprised me – but based on screenshots of the app that I saw (I cannot download it because I'm in Canada, where it's unavailable), people can notify of any allergies they have. Plus, it's always possible to find an ingredient list through restaurant's menu or a packaging label.

At first I wondered if the surprise aspect would deter users, especially in this day and age of highly particular eating habits. (I don't know many people who "eat anything.") But then I figured that, for people whose priority is to reduce food waste and save money, and who are willing to go out of their way to pick it up, the contents likely don't matter as much as the principle. 

Too Good To Go food pickup
Store employee hands over a Surprise Bag. Too Good To Go

Quinn believes that Too Good To Go's arrival in the U.S. is timely. Food waste is excessive, with 40% of edible food getting thrown away every year across the country, and food waste making up 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The average New York City household tosses 8.4 pounds of food per week, which adds up an enormous 1.3 million tons of food annually – enough to fill the Empire State Building 32 times over. According to a study commissioned by Too Good To Go, 86% of city residents want to do more to reduce their personal food waste.

Too Good To Go says it wants to "show Americans how everyone can make a difference in the fight against food AND climate change, one Surprise Bag pick-up at a time." It's a great concept and one that I hope meets success on this side of the Atlantic. 

If you're in the New York or Boston regions, sign up and give it a try. Let us know what you think in the comments below.