Serri Graslie

Entrepreneurs see opportunity in food waste

I recently came across two startups — Food Cowboy and CropMobster — that are using technology to seize on a major opportunity to avert food waste (40 percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten each year). I profiled both today for NPR’s food blog, The Salt.

I’ve been incredibly intrigued by food waste issues since first covering grocery auctions last year. There’s a lot of overlap between those events and what D.C.-based Food Cowboy does in particular — both rely on truckers to decide not to discard their “kicked” loads at the nearest landfill or Dumpster, even though they’re under pressure to do so.

I learned a lot talking with Richard Gordon, a trucker himself, about just how fickle some companies can be when it comes to rejecting produce. Eggplant not purple enough? Toss it. Torn box on a pallet of 20? Not worth dealing with. The food doesn’t always head straight to the trash. If green beans get a little brown on the tips, they might be sent to a reprocessing center where those ends are cut off and the veggies become “fresh cut green beans” before they’re shipped back out to stores.

I came across the scene shown above while on a walk with Barbara Cohen and Roger Gordon, the other folks behind Food Cowboy. The bananas that were being thrown away seemed perfectly edible, albeit a bit speckled. At one point, the same worker who was tossing out the lot took a break to peel and eat one. Still good.

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