The U.S. Department of Agriculture is venturing into tech to attempt to put an end to food waste.
Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S., and not primarily from cafeterias and all-you-can-eat restaurants as one might expect. It is estimated that 20 pounds of food is wasted per person per month, with food waste from households representing about 44% of all food waste generated in the U.S.
In partnership with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, the USDA has developed the FoodKeeper application to help home cooks understand how different storing methods affect a product’s shelf life and purchase products accordingly.
“This application will help reduce food waste by showing users how to store foods properly, and reminding them to use items before they are likely to spoil,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This can help consumers save money and reduce the amount of safe food going to landfills.”
FoodKeeper offers users storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and more. There are a variety of features to take advantage of through swipe gestures or voice control, including:
- Finding specific storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry
- Getting cooking tips for cooking methods of meat, poultry and seafood products
- Noting in your calendar when products were purchased and receiving notifications when they are nearing the end of their recommended storage date
Perhaps one of the more useful and interesting features is the ability to submit questions to ‘Ask Karen’. ‘Ask Karen’ is USDA’s 24/7 virtual representative, which can provide answers about preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.
The app is available in an iOS version for iPhones and iPads in the Apple App Store and an Android version for smartphones and tablets in the Google Play Store.