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Much of the media’s coverage on food waste focuses on consumer responsibility. That is to say, what you and I can do in our own kitchens to chip away at the country’s staggering waste problem (around 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. is lost, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council). And while taking measures to reduce squandered food in home kitchens is certainly a step in the right direction, the reality is that most waste occurs earlier in the supply chain. What happens post-harvest—from distribution to retail—is where the vast majority of our food falls through the figurative cracks.
Colorado Springs-based startup FoodMaven hopes to be a solution to this problem, and it launches in Denver this week. The for-profit company was co-founded last year by Dan Lewis, who spearheaded the Colorado Springs Food Rescue, and Patrick Bultema, a venture-backed executive with plenty of experience in the tech sector.
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FoodMaven’s continuously updated digital shopping platform allows wholesale buyers to purchase oversupplied food—everything from (perfectly good) supermarket products approaching their sell-by dates to local farm harvests that haven’t yet found homes—at deeply discounted prices. FoodMaven then promptly delivers the products to buyers—typically restaurants, hospitals, and institutional facilities such as assisted living centers. Logistically, FoodMaven’s marketplace offers flexibility and agility in an otherwise slow and rigid system.
“Our food system offers continuous abundance,” Bultema says, “but the unintended consequence is lost food. The system hasn’t changed since the 1950s…this is the beginning of the transformation.”
FoodMaven makes economical sense for all parties involved: It generates profits for suppliers, such as supermarkets, which would typically have to pay to dispose of oversupply, and it conveniently delivers top-quality product to buyers for an unbeatable price. While there are many local, nonprofit groups who recover wasted food (such as Denver’s We Don’t Waste), FoodMaven’s for-profit model allows it to have a larger reach and impact. Plus, FoodMaven is committed to a “zero landfill” policy, diverting any unsold product for donations or animal feed.
The Blue Star, a 22-year-old restaurant in Colorado Springs, has been a FoodMaven customer since last December. General manager Autumn Londo appreciates the sustainability aspect, but she also loves the savings. It allows chefs to snap up peak-quality items, such as heirloom tomatoes or sablefish, at steep discounts and have them on diners’ plates that same day. The only catch? You never know what you’re going to get.
Now, Denver buyers can get in on the action. The company intends to test the market here in the Mile High City for a year before pursuing national expansion.