We dream of a world where food is affordable and accessible to all. For now, we settle for fighting against food waste, a step towards ending food inequality, accessibility and global warming. A recently popularized app, which is all about taking this step, has proudly made its way into the doors of many cafés in Florence. In 2021, almost anything seems possible, so why not throw into the mix a new form of technology that allows us to save the planet, while enjoying delicious baked goods at low cost. Too Good To Go is a Danish app that is soaring across Europe and has even made its way to New York. With a simple click, customers can make an effort to save the planet by saving piles of unsold food and baked goods that would otherwise be discarded.
Many restaurants, bars and supermarkets bin perfectly edible food at the end of the day in order to serve fresh items. This is not just a waste of food and resources, but also a massive waste of money for companies. Coffee Mantra, a café located in Sant’Ambrogio is one example of the many restaurants listed on this app in Florence that have joined the movement to fight against food waste. They explain that especially in “these hard pandemic days, restaurants have to be ready to accommodate tourists who may never come” that day, which leads to lots of products that go unsold. “Too Good To Go can help solve this problem,” selling the remaining food to patrons, at a discount, at the end of the day.
This idea was quick to be accepted in Florence. Was it because this movement was always in the Tuscan roots? This method of combatting food waste bears close parallels and could even be seen as a modern-day take on an already existing idea of cucina povera in Italy. Using leftover food scraps to create a new delectable dish is something Italians are familiar with. The rural life of Italians, especially the countryside around Florence, Siena and Arezzo, all have a cuisine that stems from peasant life. The rule of never throwing anything out is a culinary tradition, rooted in history. For poor farmers spending the day working in the countryside, hearty meals needed to be easy and simple, but lasting with fulfilling energy. People had to get by with the ingredients readily available to them, ones that could be easily thrown together after a long day of work outside. Tuscany is famous for having dishes where nothing goes to waste, resulting in creativity shining through. People had to become resourceful with limited ingredients and learned to cook in a way that everything became powered with flavors, transforming humble, simple ingredients into something special and exciting. Dishes like pappa al pomodoro and ribollita are just two examples of how Tuscans created popular dishes by throwing together their leftover food scraps, leaving nothing to waste.
Seasonal ingredients with minimum waste equate to a recipe for success, something Too Good to Go seems to stand by. By selling food that was not sold for the day at cheaper costs, restaurants can offer their public greater access to food. Local clients can search what restaurants, cafés and bakeries are nearby and choose a “surprise box”, full of treats ranging from pizza, schiacciata, cornetti, cakes and whatever else wasn’t sold that day. Coffee Mantra tells me that they “never know what food is going to be left until the last minute, and for that reason it’s not possible to know in advance what the surprise box will contain. Typically you’ll find mainly bakery items and pastries, and sometimes a good coffee if you’re lucky!” These food items that might otherwise get discarded become another person’s next meal, embodying the true Tuscan nature of cucina povera. Many restaurants are joining this movement, embracing the project and doing their part to combat food waste. Ditta Artigianale, another local participant, explains how “food waste is a significant issue in most parts of the planet, not just Florence. We take our commitment to sustainability very seriously and think that Too Good To Go is a brilliant solution to address this challenge via a user and operator-friendly app”.
Too Good To Go states that about one-third of food is trashed, wasting around 1,555 million tons of sustenance worldwide each year. The company’s goal runs deeper than just providing a platform for people to buy leftovers from cafés and bakeries, but rather to educate and inspire. For those who simply want to buy a bag of cheap pastries, mini pizzas and panini, the app can do just that, but those aiming to learn more about the global issue affecting our world can find helpful statistics, inspiring stories and innovative recipes on the company’s blog from quality chefs. How to turn leftover Christmas panettone into a French toast-dipped club sandwich is one example of this app’s intriguing suggestions to encourage change and inspire.
This article was published in Issue 277 of The Florentine.