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App takes bite out of food waste

A smartphone app that links food businesses with charities to make donating excess food simple and easy has been developed by Edith Cowan University researchers.

The ReFood app, which was recently trialled in the City of Swan, connects local restaurants and cafés with community not-for-profit organisations that redistribute their excess food to those who need it.

While many larger food producers and retailers already have arrangements with food banks, the app fills a gap in the market, allowing local cafes to give away even small volumes of food directly to any not-for-profit organisations.

The brainchild of ECU School of Medical and Health Sciences PhD candidate Ele Stojanoska, the ReFood app was developed thanks to a $12,798 grant from the Waste Authority WA’s Community Grants Scheme.

“The main aim of the ReFood app is to both reduce the amount of food waste going into landfill and also making it much easier for small businesses to link up with not-for-profits to share food,” Stojanoska said.

“The app is very simple to use. All a business has to do is download the app, then when they have excess food they can enter it into the app along with a time that it can be collected. Then a not-for-profit organisation can see what’s available and if the food is suitable for their needs, come and collect it.

“It even shows what food has been donated so businesses can have a record of what they have given away.”

The Crooked Spire Coffee House in Midland was the first business to sign up for the ReFood app.

Owner Mike Matich said the best thing about the ReFood app was how easy it was to use.

“No one likes the idea of food being thrown away, so when I heard about the ReFood app and how it could help us link up with local not-for profits I was stoked to take part,” he said.

“It’s super easy to use, all I have to do is enter what type of excess food I have, how much I have and what time it can be collected then wait for it to be picked up.”

DreambuildersCare is a not-for-profit organisation that operates a low-cost supermarket in Midland as well as offering emergency food relief to people in need.

Manager Ursula Dixon said the ReFood app was a great way for the non-for profit sector and food business to work together to tackle both food waste and food insecurity.

“We love how easy that app is to use. We can see food pop up on the app and then being able to go and pick it up is fantastic,” she said.

“I’m surprised someone hadn’t thought of the idea before.”

Waste Authority acting chair Jenny Bloom said the ReFood app would help to achieve the target of diverting 65 per cent of municipal solid waste from landfill by 2020.

“Initiatives like the ReFood app can help increase awareness and education around our understanding of the benefits of waste avoidance, reuse and recycling,” she said.

Ele said she was currently analysing the data collected in the pilot of the ReFood app in the City of Swan.

“We’re keen to work with local governments to get the ReFood app rolled out across Perth,” she said

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