Posts Tagged ‘app’

Photo: Amr Nabil/AP.
A man buys food at a popular restaurant in Cairo, March 22, 2022. The app Tekeya is working to counter food waste.

In restaurants around the world, especially in the fanciest ones, a lot of perfectly good food goes to waste because of some perceived defect. Can we find a better solution than throwing it out?

Eman Mounir reports at the Christian Science Monitor about a new app in Egypt to deal with food waste.

“Early one morning, servers at the Al-Aseel Al-Dimishqi restaurant began their usual preparations for the day. They laid out rows of baklava, kunafa, and other syrup-drenched, nut-stuffed delectables. But the offerings weren’t for customers who flock to the upscale New Cairo suburb. 

“Instead, within an hour, staff from an organization called Tekeya had arrived to whisk away 135 portions of perfectly edible dishes.

“The reason? The desserts – made a day earlier – weren’t considered fresh enough to dish up. 

“Throughout Egypt, which boasts a rich culinary history, such views aren’t uncommon. … Now, though, amid a global reckoning over the food chain and its role in the climate crisis, attitudes in Egypt are slowly changing. 

“The Al-Aseel restaurant is one of around a dozen across the Egyptian capital that Tekeya staff visits each day in a quest to stop fit-for-consumption food from being dumped. Restaurants pay a small annual fee that allows them to alert Tekeya whenever they have unsold food. Personal users of the app can then buy that food at half-price, or either the restaurant or the user can request Tekeya  deliver the food to a food bank or charity of their choosing. In total, up to 40 plates are saved from going to the trash each day. …

“Tekeya, which was inspired in part by the rituals around Ramadan, is the first such app in Egypt, where poor nutrition and undernourishment account for up to 55% of annual child deaths.  

“ ‘I’ve seen several platforms helping fight food waste across Europe. It’s uplifting to find one that does the same here in Egypt,’ says Al-Aseel’s manager, Ramez Abo Abed, who has been using the app for three years.

“In 2019, Menna Shahin had an idea particularly inspired by Ramadan, the Muslim holiday when the devout give to poor people and fast throughout the day. That prompts both celebration and waste. Since fasts are eventually broken with lavish meals at dusk, demand for food commodities soars by up to a third, and waste, in turn, also multiplies. 

“ ‘I would put so much thought into how to dispose of [food] responsibly without harming the environment, and how to minimize my excess usage,’ Ms. Shahin says. ‘I thought to myself, why not assist everyone to dispose of their excess food wisely?’

“Ms. Shahin ended up co-founding Tekeya along with her husband, Max Hartzen. By Tekeya’s second Ramadan, some 10,000 discounted meals were ordered during the holy month, with users choosing to donate roughly a quarter of those to charities.

“Now a 15-member team, Tekeya continues to face the stigma associated with ‘leftover food,’ says Aya Magdy, the startup’s account manager. ‘People presume that it’s food that has gone bad, making it difficult to convince them to buy or donate it.’

“Traditional Egyptian fare includes delicately spiced falafel served piping hot, while koshary, a staple street food, provides a hearty kick through mixing rice and pasta with fresh onions, tomatoes, garlic, chili, lentils, chickpeas, and a dazzling array of spices – these and other classic dishes almost all require freshly chopped ingredients. 

“But there’s a growing awareness of the impact of food waste on the environment. When food is thrown out, it rots and creates methane, a greenhouse gas that is almost 30 times as potent as carbon dioxide. To date, Tekeya counts at least 45,000 meals it has saved from ending up in landfills – preventing the equivalent of 133,000 kilograms (about 293,000 pounds) of carbon dioxide from being released into the environment, Ms. Shahin says.

“The team also works hard to guarantee the quality of the food it passes on, carrying out regular checkups amid stringent requirements. And because trust is such a big factor, if clients complain that the food from a restaurant is too stale or otherwise unsatisfactory, collaboration is immediately terminated.   

“The number of users has climbed steadily. The app now has more than 50,000 subscribers and 120 food suppliers in Cairo. And users tend to be conscientious themselves. Sara Harfoush, a teaching assistant in Cairo University’s Faculty of Economics and Political Science, was initially skeptical, so she conducted her own trials to gauge quality. After ordering off the app several times – and finding it satisfactory each time – she began buying food cheaply to donate to those in need. …

“The idea is catching on with well-known brands. Alban Khalifa, a dairy shop with multiple branches across Cairo, has been reducing food waste and financial losses through Tekeya for nearly two years. Regulars know they can snap up half-price puddings through the app at the close of day.

“That food would otherwise join the tens of thousands of tons of ingredients overflowing from trash cans on many streets of Cairo. In rural areas, heaps of discarded vegetables and harvests rot in the sun, attracting stray animals.

“There are other draws beyond environmental and sanitation concerns. Soaring inflation and another round of currency devaluation in March have further squeezed citizens in a country where a third of the population is classified as low-income earners. 

“Mohamed Refaat, a pharmacist in Cairo, says he quickly became a regular user after learning about Tekeya. The combination of contributing to saving the environment and getting good food at a discount is, he says, ‘very attractive to any user given the soaring prices and rising inflation rates.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Reuters.
A man attempts to fend off a swarm of desert locusts at a ranch near the town of Nanyuki, in Laikipia county, Kenya.

Talk about citizen scientists! Tribal elders in Africa could teach Westerners a few things about enlisting everyone to solve problems.

Rachel Nuwer reports at the New York Times, “Melodine Jeptoo will never forget the first time she saw a locust swarm. Moving like a dark cloud, the insects blotted out the sky and pelted her like hail.

“ ‘When they’re flying, they really hit you hard,’ said Ms. Jeptoo, who lives in Kenya and works with PlantVillage, a nonprofit group that uses technology to help farmers adapt to climate change.

“In 2020, billions of the insects descended on East African countries that had not seen locusts in decades, fueled by unusual weather connected to climate change. Kenya had last dealt with a plague of this scale more than 70 years ago; Ethiopia and Somalia, more than 30 years ago. Nineteen million farmers and herders across these three countries, which bore the brunt of the damage, saw their livelihoods severely affected. …

“But as bad as 2020’s swarms were, they and their offspring could have caused much worse damage. While the weather has helped slow the insects’ reproduction, the success, [said Keith Cressman, a senior locust forecasting officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization], has primarily resulted from a technology-driven anti-locust operation that hastily formed in the chaotic months following the insects’ arrival to East Africa. This groundbreaking approach proved so effective at clamping down on the winged invaders in some places that some experts say it could transform management of other natural disasters around the world.

‘We’d better not let this crisis go to waste,’ said David Hughes, an entomologist at Penn State University. ‘We should use this lesson as a way not just to be adapted to the next locust crisis, but to climate change, generally.’ …

“The locust plague that hit East Africa in 2020 was two years in the making. In 2018, two major cyclones dumped rain in a remote area of Saudi Arabia, leading to an 8,000-fold increase in desert locust numbers. By mid-2019, winds had pushed the insects into the Horn of Africa, where a wet autumn further boosted their population. An unusual cyclone in Somalia in early December finally tipped the situation into a true emergency. …

“Countries like Sudan and Eritrea that regularly deal with small, seasonal swarms have teams of locust trackers who are trained to find the insects and recognize which life cycle stage they are in. They use a tablet-based program to transmit locust data by satellite to national and international authorities so experts can design appropriate control strategies.

“But people outside of those frontline locust nations who may want to start using this system today would encounter a typical technology problem. … Even if the hardware were available, in 2020, East Africa lacked experts who could identify locusts.

“ ‘We’d never had a dress rehearsal for the real thing,’ said Alphonse Owuor, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization specialist in Somalia. ‘We had people who were very familiar with locusts in theory, but who didn’t have the experience or equipment required to carry out this massive operation.’

“With swarms suddenly covering an area of Kenya larger than New Jersey, officials were tasked with creating a locust-combating operation virtually from scratch. Collecting dependable, detailed data about locusts was the first crucial step.

” ‘Saying “Oh, there’s locusts in northern Kenya” doesn’t help at all,’ Mr. Cressman said. ‘We need longitude and latitude coordinates in real time.’

“Rather than try to rewrite the locust-tracking software for newer tablets, Mr. Cressman thought it would be more efficient to create a simple smartphone app that would allow anyone to collect data like an expert. He reached out to Dr. Hughes, who had already created a similar mobile tool with the Food and Agriculture Organization to track a devastating crop pest, the fall armyworm, through PlantVillage, which he founded.

“PlantVillage’s app uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help farmers in 60 countries, primarily in Africa, diagnose problems in their fields. Borrowing from this blueprint, Dr. Hughes and his colleagues completed the new app, eLocust3m, in just a month

“Unlike the previous tablet-based program, anyone with a smartphone can use eLocust3m. The app presents photos of locusts at different stages of their life cycles, which helps users diagnose what they see in the field. GPS coordinates are automatically recorded and algorithms double check photos submitted with each entry. Garmin International also helped with another program that worked on satellite-transmitting devices.

“ ‘The app is really easy to use,’ said Ms. Jeptoo of PlantVillage. Last year, she recruited and trained locust trackers in four hard-hit Kenyan regions. ‘We had scouts who were 40- to 50-year-old elders, and even they were able to use it.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

I love how many apps there are for identifying things these days. PictureThis has been a great help to me in identifying unfamiliar flowers. Now if I could just get one for birds!

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Photo: Pattie Mitchell via Upsplash
You can help reduce global warming when you think twice about the food you buy.

The pandemic has hurt my tentative efforts to help the global climate by cutting back on lamb and beef. This sounds lame, but with online ordering, I feel less able to be creative about meatless meals. I need to see the produce up close, not the market’s idealized photo. Guess I better get over that: online shopping looks like being my mode for quite a while yet.

Meanwhile, as Ali Withers reports for the Climate Solutions initiative at the Washington Post, a Danish grocery chain is making it easy for customers to watch their carbon footprint.

A major supermarket chain in Denmark is offering shoppers something extra at checkout: an estimated amount of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from their groceries.

“COOP DK, the Danish cooperative that controls one-third of the country’s grocery market, says it is trying to educate consumers with an eye toward nudging them to cut back on meat and dairy, two categories of food that produce the most greenhouse gasses linked to climate change. …

“Shoppers can use an app that gives them a personalized carbon footprint tracker that displays roughly how much CO2 it took to produce the tomatoes, yogurt or cold cuts in their baskets. The tracker, which rolled out in June, also allows customers to compare their footprint to the average shopper.

“ ‘What people need to understand is just that animal-based products have a higher [climate] impact,’ said Thomas Roland, who leads corporate social responsibility for COOK DK. …

“Animal agriculture is a major source of both carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gasses that are driving the rapid warming of the planet, scientists say. …

“Since the stores stock more than 100,000 items, they took a few shortcuts by selecting a benchmark item — 2.2 pounds of white rice, for example — to be representative of all types of rice because, as Roland explained, the variations in rice production, transportation and packaging are relatively small. Similarly, all pork is counted in the same way, regardless of farming methods. …

“So far, 21 percent of the chain’s 1.2 million app users have checked their carbon footprint, Roland said. …

“When they first discussed the idea of a carbon tracker, top executives at COOP DK were concerned that it could affect the chain’s bottom line. …

“Roland said, ‘Our biggest concern was that we “chased” some customers out of our shops only to find that they buy all their meat at competitors. But that, luckily, doesn’t seem to be the case. Curiosity wins, as customers actually want to see the footprint of their total basket and not “cheat.” ‘

“The average Dane is responsible through his or her food choices for the emission of about 6,614 pounds of CO2, or 18.1 pounds a day, according to COOP DK.

“That’s almost six times the amount recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health. The commission’s 2019 peer-reviewed study by 37 scientists found that a person’s nutritional CO2 footprint should be closer to 3.1 pounds per day, if humanity is to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. …

Barnemad, a cooking site that displays the CO2 equivalence of a recipe’s ingredients, is among a growing number of ‘climate cookbooks’ that are part of a Danish trend to promote low-carbon eating, organic foods and nutrition. …

“Leading meat and dairy suppliers are cautiously welcoming the footprint tracker, although it could result in a decrease in sales. …

“The pork producer Danish Crown doesn’t oppose climate footprint trackers, its top executive said. ‘It’s early days for these tools,’ said Jais Valeur, CEO of Danish Crown, which also exports meat to China, Japan and Britain. ‘But still, it’s a sign of what’s going to come here on the climate path, and we need to pay attention to this. It’s not like we’re against it. Meat has become so cheap here in Europe and in the Western world, and there you see an overconsumption.’ …

“Both [dairy producer] Arla and Danish Crown are trying to reduce their carbon emissions and position their products as low-carbon.

“Arla is aiming to shrink its CO2 footprint by 30 percent by 2030. And Danish Crown says it will halve CO2 emissions from the 12.5 million pigs it raises and slaughters in Denmark by 2030. The company is setting up baselines and individual climate plans for each of its pig farmers. …

“Farmers, for the most part, are embracing the opportunity to lower their carbon footprint, although, as Valeur notes, there are no financial incentives. …

“Kim Kjær Knudsen is a third-generation pig farmer who is trying to cut carbon emissions from his farm of 100,000 pigs outside Copenhagen. He has invested in biogas projects, reduced the acidity of his slurry, installed new ventilation systems and is buying more local feed.

“ ‘I think this will define my future in the next 10 to 15 years,’ Knudsen said. ‘It’s important to make some steps now [that] will move us in a good direction … if I can put a calculation on my meat to say, “Actually, we can produce meat here in Denmark that is 50 to 80 percent better for the environment than they can do somewhere else in the world.” ‘ “

Gotta love those Danes — ahead of the curve on so many good things! How do they do it? More at the Washington Post, here.

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Here’s a story from Total Croatia News, which I am not quite sure how I found. Probably a link on ArtsJournal or Facebook or Twitter. I can’t claim to read it regularly.

Daniela Rogulj wrote back in December that with its open digital library, Croatia is the first Free Reading Zone. The top 100,000 digital books from around the world — both bestsellers and academic books — are available without any cost, card, or code.

You do need to be within Croatia’s borders, and you have to download the free “Croatia Reads” app on Android or IOS smartphones and tablets.

The concept was tested early last autumn at Zagreb’s Velvet Café, and it worked. The generous support of sponsors enables publishers and authors to be paid when books are read.

More at Total Croatia News, here, and at Publishing Perspectives, here.

Now I’m wondering what’s on the book list. (Asakiyume: Offer your book?)

Photo: Digital Media Diet
The digitizing of books has enabled Croatia to become the world’s first Free Reading Zone. If you are in Croatia, download the “Croatia Reads” app for access to 100,000 bestselling and academic books.


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When we were little, my brother had a turntable in a brightly colored “juke box” that lit up and flashed. All the kids came to hear his records. If only he had known he could become a child DJ!

Lynsey Chutel has a story about one in South Africa.

“At first it seems like a fluke – a two-year-old playing with the knobs and buttons of a sophisticated music system. Yet the pint size boy is in control of the beat of the bass-heavy house music. He is South Africa’s youngest disc jokey, DJ AJ. …

“Orarilwe Hlongwane is still learning to put together words but the toddler is already able to select and play music from a laptop and has become a viral phenomenon on South Africa’s social media. …

“His mother, Refiloe Marumo, credits his father’s decision to buy an iPad for his unborn son. Glen Hlongwane planned to download educational apps.”

Read what happened instead.

Photo: Associated Press

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Today would have been Shakespeare’s 451st birthday, and I am seeing testimonials all over Facebook and twitter. So it seems like a good day to write about the Sonnet Project in New York City.

Stuart Miller wrote at the New York Times about “an ambitious project to create a short film for each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, with each movie shot at a different New York City location.

“ ‘It brings Shakespeare to people who might not be in touch with it, and we can use social media like Twitter and Instagram to spread the word,’ [actor Billy] Magnussen said. The endeavor, called the Sonnet Project, grew from the work of the New York Shakespeare Exchange, a local theater group.

“The group, which started the project in 2013, just completed its 100th film: Sonnet 27, starring Carrie Preston, an Emmy award-winning actress, and filmed on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge [and premiering] April 8 on the Sonnet Project website and app. …

“Some directors found inspiration at the location where the films were shot. At Leidy’s Shore Inn, a 110-year-old bar on Staten Island, Daniel Finley, who was making Sonnet 19, filmed Laurie Birmingham, an actress who works mostly in regional theater, as a world-weary regular musing over her drink.

“ ‘We walked in at 10 a.m. and the regulars were there watching OTB and scratching their lotto tickets,’ he said. ‘We learned some of their stories and Laurie based her character on those impressions.’ ” More at the New York Times, here.

Photo: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
A crew filming Sonnet 108 at the John T. Brush stairway. 

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I have yet to see for myself any marked improvement in Boston traffic resulting from the city’s use of the Waze app, but maybe that’s because I didn’t try to go to the football parade right after the blizzard.

Nick Stockton reported, “Even on a good day, Boston’s roads are more tangled than a Celtic knot. … So the city’s traffic managers decided to call in the apps.

“Specifically, the city reached out to Waze, a driving and directions tool owned by Google. By sharing the [snowy Patriots] parade route on the service, the city helped users steer themselves around traffic, potentially easing the overall road burden.

“That one-time data fling has resulted in a longer term data-sharing relationship. … Boston will give Waze a heads-up about any planned closures, and in return the app’s owners will give the city’s traffic management center access to its profoundly valuable stream of user data. In the short term, this will let the city be more responsive to traffic problems as they arise. But going forward, Boston’s road-runners hope the data will help them fine-tune their traffic light timing and keep congestion from building up in the city’s intestinal road network. …

“Boston isn’t an outlier here, either: Governments all over are using private companies to fill technology gaps. Google’s transit specification—the way it pushes bus and train times to Google Maps users—has become the de facto standard for how cities publish their mass transportation schedules. Entire states are buying cycling data from Strava to build better bike lanes.”  More here.

Maybe the next occasion for Boston to use Waze will be the upcoming marathon, when the three people we’re calling Team Sweden will be running (Erik, his sister, and their cousin), and it’s impossible to drive.

(Thank you, The Fort Pointer, for tweeting this story.)

Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Boston Globe/Getty Images

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