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 Rachna Gulati, the CEO and co-founder of the Foodstand app, talks about food waste and how people can reduce their waste in a presentation to Birmingham Covington students and staff; the presentation was simulcast on Facebook Live.

Rachna Gulati, the CEO and co-founder of the Foodstand app, talks about food waste and how people can reduce their waste in a presentation to Birmingham Covington students and staff; the presentation was simulcast on Facebook Live.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

School uses app to cut down on food waste

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 23, 2018


BLOOMFIELD HILLS — If you want to reduce food waste, there’s an app for that.

Birmingham Covington School is instituting a new program to help encourage students to ensure that less food ends up in landfills. The program uses the Foodstand app and works with the app creators to find ways to change how people look at food.

“The concept behind Foodstand is to form habits and learn new strategies and ideas one at a time,” said Foodstand CEO and co-founder Rachna Gulati. “It’s super easy to teach students and families to build sustainable eating habits using this app. Using a school or office environment is particularly effective. … By using the app, you get the team dynamic and group support by working together.”

Launched in October of 2016 and based in Ann Arbor, Foodstand is reaching out to groups and individuals through its app to promote its mission of encouraging better eating habits.

“We started off within a corporate incubator, kicking around different ideas for food sustainability,” explained Gulati. “We knew doing the right thing every day was hard, so by taking people through incremental and gentle behavioral changes, we could make a big difference. … I hope the (Birmingham Covington) students make this an everyday habit.”

Birmingham Covington’s students and staff were looking into food waste, and they discovered Foodstand in the process.

“The Thinking Green group we formed wanted to see if food waste was a problem in this community, and we found out it not only is here, but in all communities,” said the school’s instructional specialist, Pauline Roberts. “The kids wrote a grant application, and then we started promoting (the use of the app) through email and social media.”

Gulati gave a presentation to the school’s students and staff Jan. 16 to help them kick off the program. She said the issue of food waste is a huge one, and it’s one that people often don’t realize is so significant.

“The crazy thing is 40 percent of food goes to waste, and that results in a lot of greenhouse gases being released and a lot of wasted dollars,” said Gulati. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are the most commonly wasted, and of course, those are what we should be eating the most of.”

The app helps guide users through a process of adjusting eating habits one step at a time. After downloading the app from an app store, users register, create a profile, sign into their group forum by entering a provided challenge code — if, like Birmingham Covington, the user joined as part of an organization — add friends, get and share tips, and record meals and achievements.

A variety of advice is provided to assist people in navigating the process of reducing food waste. This includes general tips such as thinking about each meal ahead of time, saving unused food in the freezer whenever possible, only buying what is needed, and embracing leftovers from both homemade and restaurant meals. It also offers more specific tricks, such as using orange peels as zest or to flavor beverages instead of throwing them out, and using the tops of carrots for pesto.

The Birmingham Covington students’ goal is to have at least one waste-free meal a day. The school began its program officially Jan. 16, and administrators are excited to see how much of an impact the program has on the kids.

“It’s an awesome platform. All you have to do is aim for changing how you plan and eat one meal a day,” said Birmingham Covington Assistant Principal Jason Hill. “As chief of lunch supervisors, I’m interested to see what the real impact will be in regard to what they save and what they pitch.”

The benefits of reducing food waste are obvious, said Roberts, but working with an app to help provide a roadmap to achieve it makes the process so much easier and more satisfying.

“The app helps measure impact and gathers statistics and totals automatically,” she said. “It all goes to show how much individual daily activities can have an impact. I want them to look back and see they made a difference and can say, ‘We did that.’”