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Startup combats food waste in Boston, considers partnership with BU

Food waste in Massachusetts accounts for over one million tons of waste per year, according to estimates made by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in 2015. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, one in eight Americans face problems when it comes to providing enough food for the day.

Additionally, according to a 2015 article by National Geographic, food waste can generate carbon dioxide of more than 3.3 billion metric tons.

To help combat and minimize food waste, Sabine Valenga and David Rodríguez created Food for All. Food for All is a startup in the Boston area, and the company has an app that connects customers with meals that would otherwise go to waste.

Using the app, the customers can browse through options of nearby restaurants, delis and cafes that sell leftover food, with discounts ranging from 50 to 80 percent off the original price.

After the selection is made, the user heads to the location, picks up the food and eats the meal. Food for All has apps available for iPhones and Androids in the App Store and Google Play.

The project initially launched in partnership with Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health back in October 2016, with the mission of helping, saving and eating to combat the consequences of food waste.

Within the span of a year, Food for All and its movement gained the attentions of the public, with more than 600 backers, including both domestic and international supporters, in the initial campaign.

Sabine Valenga, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Food for All, said that the idea for the start-up came from a combination of her inspirations and those of David Rodríguez, co-founder and CEO at Food for All.

“David comes from a family of hospitality industry in Mexico, and he grew up facing food waste,” Valenga said. Valenga possessed a different knowledge base than Rodriguez, so they combined forces to create the company.

“I studied architecture,” Valenga said. “What really amazed me was how technology and designs can actually be integrated into our plans [to reduce food waste].”

The company has not only partnered up with the local food businesses in Boston, but it also has partnered up with several food donation centers, such as the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Dr. Ellen Messer, a culinary historian and anthropology professor at Boston University, praised Food for All for its “innovative, tech-savvy approach to reducing food waste and food insecurity in America.”

Messer commended the cooperation between organizations in order to combat waste.

“It is great that the tech designers, individual consumers, fast-casual food enterprises and The Greater Boston Food Bank are able to join together to make this a ‘win-win-win-win’ situation,” Messer said.

Regarding the company’s future plans, Valenga said that they are planning on expanding the business. Food for All has branches across Boston and New York City, and they are hoping to create branches in three more cities.

Within the Boston area, Valenga said the company has plans to partner with BU. She said they have talked with the BU Dining Services, starting with a partnership with George Sherman Union food court, and are pursuing a potential collaboration.

As the company increases in size, Valenga stressed the importance of maintaining its values of simplicity and openness.

“There is no hidden side,” Valenga said. “It’s really a win-win situation, and you can trust that we do it.

Valenga said she feels that in addition to attracting customers through transparency, Food for All’s business structure causes it to stand out from other businesses.

“One thing that I think is unique about Food for All is that, normally, programs that are against food waste operate in a business-to-business system,” Valenga said. “But we are business to consumers. I think in that sense, we created more awareness for the public eye, and I think the fact that it’s not so hidden helps our cause.”

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