Brace yourself for a mind-boggling statistic. Ready? In 2010, the United States wasted 33 million tons of food. According to the EPA, food waste accounted for almost 14 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream, less than three percent of which was recovered and recycled in 2010. The real tragedy is that there are millions of people going hungry in the U.S. and around the world. Finding a way to reduce this staggering waste is key to stamping out hunger once and for all.

A group of students at Arizona State University are convinced that the solution lies in connecting those with extra food to those who need the food before it hits the dumpster. Not willing to wait for someone else to devise the solution, Ramya Baratam, Steven Hernandez, Katelyn Keberle, Eric Lehnhardt, Loni Amundson, and Jake Irvin created a social media-powered app that could do just that.

Image via ImagineCup/Microsoft

FlashFood is a mobile food recovery network, powered by social media, that feeds the hungry by collecting excess food from restaurants, caterers, and conventions, and delivering it to nearby community centers. If a restaurant or bakery manager has excess food, he or she can use the FlashFood app to instantly tell a local community organization that they wish to donate it. That organization can then use the app to coordinate pick up of the food and instantly alert food recipients of an upcoming donation at a nearby community center.

“One in five children in America goes to bed hungry every night, and FlashFood’s home state of Arizona has the third highest rate of child food insecurity in America,” write the students on the FlashFood blog. “Yet one third of the available food in the U.S. is wasted. Our team believes that we can do better.”

Microsoft must agree, because although the innovative project is still in the pilot stage it won the United States’ Imagine Cup and the project’s been accepted into an entrepreneurship incubator run by ASU. The team hopes to have Flash Food fully functioning in Phoenix by 2013.

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