One Pizza, Slightly Used: An App Lets You Sell Half-Eaten Food. What Could Go Wrong?

Seattle entrepreneur Dan Newman says he and a few friends conceived the idea for LeftoverSwap a few years ago, on a night they ordered way too much pizza and couldn't fit the rest in the fridge. "We were like, 'We don't want to throw this out, and it would just be great to broadcast that we have extra pizza to share,'" he says.

The idea started to take shape after Newman hosted a couch surfer in his apartment who was a "freegan" — meaning he only feasted from other people's plates. "That was enough to spark initiative in me," Newman says.

After a little more research, he found that humans actually waste tons of food — up to 40 percent of what we produce, according to stats repurposed on his website.

To Newman, the most effective solution lay in modern technology. His AirBnB-style app, projected to launch this fall, would connect overzealous diners to hungry consumers within the same zip code. Selling your leftovers is simple: Just snap a picture with your smartphone, name your price, and arrange for a pick-up.

Naturally, the idea didn't find favor with Richard Lee of the San Francisco Health Department. Leftover food is a huge source of food-borne illnesses, he says. And in this case, there would be no way for officials to trace the source; they wouldn't know who originally produced the food and under what conditions. The Health Department discourages homeless people from eating food left on top of garbage cans for those exact reasons.

"Let's say everything was on the up-and-up," Lee says. "The people might not have washed their hands. They might be diseased." He added that most dishes become disease vectors once they've been left out for four hours or longer. San Franciscans who sell food without a permit could incur hefty citations — potentially a couple thousand dollars, or three times the original permitting fee. LeftoverSwap could face a much stiffer crackdown than the ones on Uber and Lyft for operating without state-issued livery licenses.

But Newman dismissed those anxieties in an e-mail, arguing that the company will provide "common sense" guidelines to users, urging them to reheat food properly and check to see if it's perishable. The site's credo, in a nutshell, is "don't give (or sell) anything thing you wouldn't eat yourself."

Well, he's right about one thing: 99 percent of us don't need that second helping of beef lo mein.

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awayneramsey topcommenter

My first thought when reading this, and it is not a new idea, was one of disgust. If there is one thing that is worse than human niggardliness, fulsomeness or rueful giving, it's neoliberal capitalist rent-seeking as charity with earth conservation advert. Leftoverswap or LeftoverSLOP is an evolution of the same rapacious un/regulated-taxed neoliberal capitalists who over/exploit-consume the earth after productive human capital inputs. When LeftoverSLOP feigns an interest in increasing land use efficiency, reductions of resource use and human expansion, these neoliberal capitalist advocates actually promote corporate agronomy using patented GMOs and fertilizers that over-exploit and intoxicate the soil and contaminates water sources by way of run-off. Christian Parenti informs us that efficiency is lost after one-or-two crop-yields resulting from GMO over-exploitation of the soil. It must be rejuvenated. There may be one way, however, to curb anthropomorphic over-exploitation of our shared earth; that is, to curb human population growth. With government regulation, and deliberate management, not capitalist deregulation, demand on our only biosphere might stabilize. Last, the LeftoverSLOP and “shared economy” jingles are just more demands on our shared earth providing more to the few at the expense of the efficient, productive many.

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