In 2013, the USDA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge as a response to these staggering statistics: 30-40% of the food supply (equating to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food) is wasted each year, according to estimates from the USDA's Economic Research Service.
The Food Waste Challenge is an initiative geared toward businesses and organizations in the U.S. food chain (including processors, manufacturers, retailers, NGOs, and food service agencies) that want to reduce the environmental impact of wasted food. Over 1,000 companies have signed up for the challenge in the last couple years and committed to recover or recycle food that's been removed from commerce, as well as minimize food waste in school meal programs.
Now, the USDA has taken its efforts to the consumer level with a new app called FoodKeeper.
The app functions as a pocket guide as well as a reminder service for people who want to take the guesswork out of figuring out when their food expires. Select the category (say, produce) and grocery item (for example, grapes) and FoodKeeper will give a general timeline on how long it will last in the fridge or freezer. Tap "fridge" or "freezer" to indicate how you're storing it, and your calendar app will open to set an alarm and remind you to eat it before it spoils.
FoodKeeper also includes some handy tips, like recommended cooking temperatures for meats, and a virtual assistant named Karen that can answer questions about food safety.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's interview with the USDA app's team leader.