Food waste app Too Good To Go saves leftovers from San Francisco restaurants

Good News Notes:

As I walk out of San Francisco grocery chain Luke’s Local on a recent Tuesday evening, I feel an unexpected wave of guilt wash over me.

In my hand is a heavy brown paper bag packed full of eight pieces of produce, a ham and goat cheese sandwich, a loaf of seeded country bread, a fancy looking almond pound cake, two chocolate sea salt cookies and a pack of pita bread. Somehow, I only paid $5.99 for this haul that will feed me in various ways for at least a week.

The pound cake alone has a price sticker on it that says $13.99.

On this day, the day I feel like I paid a small fee to rob a bank, I decided to get all my meals (or at least my food for a 24-hour period) through the new app Too Good To Go, an anti-food waste company that helps facilitate getting excess food from restaurants and grocery stores to the general public for just $4.99 or $5.99 per “surprise bag.”

When I opened the app that morning, I had plenty of San Francisco restaurants and grocery stores to choose from, including many that I’d describe as downright trendy, like Brandon Jew’s Mamahuhu and Michael Mina’s Indie Superette. I decided to choose a few I knew well, figuring that was my best bet to get a well-rounded day’s meals based on what I knew the restaurant stocked. I figured I’d get dinner from House of Dim Sum, breakfast from Daily Driver, the fixing for a lunch from Luke’s Local and a sweet treat and maybe a loaf of bread from La Boulangerie. 

I was very, very wrong. You see, each establishment can give a customer anything they want in a “surprise bag.” Sometimes the app might describe what’s likely to be inside (I saw this rarely), but more often, you just have to guess based on what they serve. But what I was wrong about wasn’t necessarily the bag’s contents (obviously I expected and was correct that Daily Driver would give me leftover bagels), it was the amount of food inside each bag. 

While costing the customer $4.99, each bag is supposed to have a value of at least $15 (or a $5.99 bag should have a value of $18) and each bag I picked up had at least that, and most times much, much more. My plan for roughly three meals plus a dessert in reality subsidized meals for myself and my husband all week long. 

At La Boulangerie Noe Valley, my bag included a banana nut pound cake, a big chocolate chip cookie, a raspberry financier and a baguette for $4.99 — probably the most on the dot to $15 I could get when adding in tax based on my calculations. 

Picking up my dinner at House of Dim Sum, I’m greeted with a giant to-go container full of egg rolls, shrimp dumplings, pot stickers and jian dui, so packed that I share with my husband and it’s enough for both our dinners — all for $5.99.

I ate the sandwich from Luke’s Local for lunch the next day and used the pita bread to devour some hummus I had in the fridge. And I still had breakfast for the rest of the week — six bagels from Daily Driver that usually cost $3.50 per bagel. That’s not to mention the bell peppers and onion and garlic I ended up using to supplement a taco dinner later in the week or the pieces of baguette I used to sop up pasta sauce during yet another dinner and the many desserts that came from the various cookies and that very delicious $13.99 pound cake….”

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