Prashant Baid didn’t want to be the kind of guy who threw out a half loaf of moldy bread each week. He’d been that guy for too many years, he told NPR.
“I love bread but I can’t be eating 20 slices in 3 days,” he explained in an email.
“Bread has such a short shelf life and I don’t want to waste food, so it makes more sense to buy bread in smaller quantities. Sure you can freeze ’em, but it doesn’t taste as good as fresh bread,” he added.
Always a practical man, Baid said that for people like him — single people who live alone — it makes much more sense to buy half-loaves. “But most stores don’t sell them.”
So he did what comes naturally: he created a program to help him, and others, find half loaves of bread for sale at local stores. For Baid, that means local stores in India, where he’s currently living.
“I like building small and fun internet side-projects,” he said, adding that in this case, “I honestly just made for myself.” That’s why the search engine is limited to a handful of cities across the country, he said.
But clearly he’s hit on something, he acknowledges.
In the first 12 hours of launching halfloafnear.me, the site received more than 16,000 hits, according to Baid. That tells him other people also think it’s a problem, he said.
To Baid’s surprise, much of the attention he’s received for the project so far has come from half a world away. Despite the fact that the half-loaf search engine is only available for Indian cities, he has received more comments from Americans than anyone else, he said. And most of these people from the U.S. seem to be “annoyed that the stores there also have very limited availability of half-loaves of bread,” Baid said.
Food waste is a serious problem around the world, with devastating impacts to the environment and national economies. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one third of all food produced around the world is wasted.
In terms of the environmental impacts, the U.N. Environment Programme reports that if food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the United States. Additionally, the resources needed to produce the food has a carbon footprint of about 3.3 billion tons of CO2.
In the U.S. alone, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food worth $161 billion went to waste in 2010, according to the USDA. Food takes up more space in U.S. landfills than anything else, according to the EPA.
One source of the problem is that Americans over-buy groceries that they never get around to eating.
Those figures were not necessarily on Baid’s mind when he created the website, but he’s glad it has resonated with people at large.
“The fact that it got little viral shows that there are many other young people around the world, working/studying and living alone in cities who don’t want to waste food either,” he said.
“For products with very short shelf lives, you should have an option to buy them in smaller quantities.”
Baid added, he’s optimistic that his own “silly little niche project” might inspire others to make their own localized versions for more than just bread.