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Show HN: Ratatouille is an app to share your extra food (apple.com)
64 points by giorgia on May 6, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

If you really want to share extra food you're growing, do one of the following:

1. Contact your local food bank. It's very possible they have a program where extra produce is donated and given to people in need. We have one where I live:


and it looks like SV does too: http://www.shfb.org/backyardproduce

2. Have your children/nieces/neighborhood kids collect it, put it in their wagon and go around the neighborhood and sell it. It's a great way to teach kids about entrepreneurship and money. My kids do this and usually make $20-40 on a Saturday afternoon. I also let them use my phone and square, which gets quite the reaction.

I have a HUGE amount of garden space and, even with 6 people in my home, we have too much tomatoes, lemons, kale and zucchini in the summer.

I was chatting about exactly this kind of app/service with a few friends two summers ago. They have an apple tree and can't possibly use all the fruit they get from it. There are probably other local people with other fruits/vegetables that they have a surplus of who'd be very happy to trade for some apples. This obviously isn't a new problem/idea but a simple website would help such people connect and possibly make new friends.

We never got around to building anything but it's strangely satisfying to see that others had similar ideas and actually shipped something. In the world of tweeting toasters and fridges that track your food (i.e Internet of Things/Everything), it would be great to have a list of available items automatically kept up to date (of course the incentive there is to avoid things spoiling in the first place).

We built an app called UrbanFruitly as part of the National Civic Hackathon to share home grown fruits and vegetables. We won two prizes at the hackathon and White House loved the idea so much we got invitation to visit.

The app is actively looking local group of participants for beta testing. Here is the link:


Some folks I know are raising money to build an app for a worldwide map of fruit trees. Their database exists already and is growing, and they're just raising money to fund mobile development and eventually an SMS interface. They list privately-owned trees on their map, so you could contact the owner and get in touch about swapping: http://www.barnraiser.us/projects/fallingfruit-org-mobilize-...

There was also http://neighborhoodfruit.com/ at one point, but it's not looking too good these days.

And I started a non-profit here in Atlanta 6 years ago called Concrete Jungle (www.concrete-jungle.org) where we pick fruit from random people's fruit trees (99.9999% of homeowners want nothing to do with their fruit trees) and donate it to local homeless shelters/food banks. There is lots and lots of food everywhere once you start looking for it.

I didn't have exactly the same idea, but close enough to feel 'We never got around to building anything but it's strangely satisfying to see that others had similar ideas and actually shipped something.'

Mine went "We're going to a lot of trouble to make all this food (from fancy cookbooks), and while leftovers are great, company would be better. Wouldn't it be great if there were a website where people could coordinate dinner plans with folks around them... for friendship, hospitality, good eating, and economy." Sort of like the iPhone app, but for whole dinners rather than just the ingredients, and for anybody with a web connection, not just one app market.

I vaguely remember a YC company doing the kind of thing you described. I don't think they do it anymore (pivoted or shut-down?) and I can't recall the name of the company at all.

Grubwithus I think. Had more of a dating vibe, at least when it was presented at demo day.

The fresh fruit/veg idea is excellent; gardeners nearly always end up with perishable surpluses.

However, I'm a little concerned with formalising it in the EU in case some busybody decides that the many onerous agricultural rules on selling food apply.

Has anyone found a review of how this app works in practice? It seems like it could work well for unopened perishable foods, but do the founders really expect that strangers are going to want to eat each others' half-eaten, saran-wrapped block of cheese? It sounds like a nice idea in theory, but in practice I think people are pretty turned off by eating strangers' food.

I think the founders would be better positioned for success if they marketed a social network component, which would facilitate friends and neighbors borrowing from each other.

Hi, i'm Luca, one of Ratatouille App Developer. Seems crazy that stranger people can share food but nowadays stranger people share car with carpooling. The mechanism is the same but change the value delivered :).

Thanks for the feedback

The difference is that the car isn't fully consumed but can be reused. So the lessor has an incentive of maintaining quality of the original good. This is the same for apartments (AirBnB). In contrast, food get's wholly consumed. How does the original owner incentivized to maintain quality?

If anything, you should spin this off to create a marketplace for food bartering system.

This is an incisive and articulate explanation of my reasoning. Ride-sharing and food-sharing are different in a few meaningful ways that raise doubt that a food-sharing app should be premised on this analogy. Not only is it the case that the lessor (donator) has basically no incentive to maintain the quality of the food, but the lessee (recipient) may have no real way to evaluate the quality, other than to trust the lessor. It may be obvious when the food has spots of mold or smells expired, but it's not always that easy to tell.

Luca, I don't mean to criticize your idea, which is a great attempt at solving the problem of wasted food. I just doubt that this model will really take off. I think you underestimate how squeamish people are about perishable food--even when it's their own food. I think people readily throw out food based on even a small chance that it is expired or smells "off." People don't want to get sick, and they especially don't want to make their families and friends sick. I think most people consider the risk of food-bourne illness (and the general ickiness factor of expired food) to outweigh the cost associated with wasted food.

I second the bartering system suggested above, which could improve the quality of the traded food. I think there's more of a market for an app that helps them keep track of when their food will expire, and to evaluate whether their food is safe to eat.

Anyway, congrats on launching your app, and I wish you the best of luck!

> do the founders really expect that strangers are going to want to eat each others' half-eaten, saran-wrapped block of cheese?


That article is about scavenging for packaged grocery store food that isn't fresh enough to sell, but is certainly safe enough to eat.

Don't you think there's a meaningful difference between a packaged, untampered-with Starbucks salad that was on the shelves just hours earlier, and a block of cheese from a stranger's refrigerator?

Cheese is essentially milk that has gone bad and had bacteria added to it. Depending on the type of cheese and its packaging, it can last for a good long while in a refrigerator, and mold can be cut off and the rest consumed (esp. if most of it is covered in a rind). Some cheeses improve in flavor this way. Almost all of the cheese Americans have are either pasteurized or aged, and may include preservatives. As long as you're not pregnant, it's basically fine to eat your neighbor's old cheese.

I don't disagree, but you are missing my point, which is a descriptive matter of American attitudes about food.

For the most part, I accept your point that old neighbor-cheese (and eggs and slightly-wilted vegetables and over-ripe fruit) is probably completely safe. But for better or worse, Americans just don't think about food this way. We have highly sanitized attitudes and expectations about food. I suspect this is largely because we are highly disconnected from the food manufacturing and chain of supply processes. We are uneducated about food, and as a result we throw it away if we have even the slightest concern that it is unsafe.

We have no problem using the same bacteria-infested, broken-bristled toothbrush for 6 months, but we have no qualms about throwing away a $9 block of gruyere if we detect the tiniest spot of mold. It's just how we are.

Once upon a time, when a neighbor had a peach tree, that neighbor often shared with the neighbors the extra peaches every summer because unless you're into canning and freezing, you can't use all the peaches from a tree.

I think this is a app formalization of that behavior. Not sure it's necessary but it's interesting for sure.

Does it allow you to share your food with people who don't have iphones?

It'd be nice if there was a public API that could be used to make the data available to people that really need food but don't have an iPhone.

My thought exactly, as a food exchange for well to do people this is a neat concept and all(especially with people who garden), but if people who actually NEED the food are able to use it (people who probably don't have iPhones) to get food that would otherwise be wasted then this app transforms into something life changing.

It goes from nice little app for people to waste a little less food or save a few bucks which they will spend at Starbucks or whatever, to an app that feeds people who would go hungry in a way that requires very little effort or cost to the person with extra food.

That's a reason to support a project that puts smartphone productivity into the hands of everyone; something like FirefoxOS perhaps: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/os/

It's a reason to develop mobile Web apps instead of native mobile apps.

you can share your items with your friends on social networks (facebook and twitter).

that's some fantastic leveling. thank you for that.

What does 'leveling' mean in this context?

Why is it an iphone app instead of a web app?

Basically because I'm an iOS developer :) Soon for Android

Ah! Good reason. Great idea, hopefully you can get it in android & a web app version. This could help end a lot of waste.

I thought that too. The kind of people that could really benefit from this aren't likely to have the budget for an iPhone.

Hypothetical- would you be more comfortable hosting an iOS-owning stranger or just someone who has access to a website? I feel more comfortable with the former (not least because of the implied affluence) but I wonder what HN's opinion is.

That's incredibly discriminatory, but at least you recognize it.

Status symbols have a way of bridging affluence gaps.

One reason is that you can do push notifications when food becomes available near you vs. having to constantly check the status. I guess that could be solved via push to SMS or emails.

I predict that some good Samaritans with iPhones will collect food with the app and redistribute it to the needy; that's a great supplement to soup kitchens which must operate at a much larger scale and are not interested in 5-10 servings of anything.

I also predict that opportunists will take advantage of the free food and resell it, a la People Behaving Badly:


I love this concept, and the general potential of the sharing economy to minimize waste though. I'm curious, what are the legal barriers to sharing food that you have come across or anticipate?

Perhaps it's different, but with prepared food, I've read about a lot of challenges starting up because of all the liability issues. I've heard of www.leftoverswap.com, www.shareyourmeals.net, www.feedingforward.com. There's also a SF-based nonprofit called FoodRunners that does donations and claims to be protected under a Good Samaritan clause, but I know that when I asked my old company if it was OK (i.e., sufficient legally to make them feel comfortable donating the tons of corporate lunches leftover), they couldn't actually find this clause.

In any case, I'm fully supportive because I believe incidents that do happen will be few and far in between and people are rarely intentional, but just wondering how hard this will be to enact.

This seems like an awesome idea. What about this though:

> You must be at least 17 years old to download this app.

> Frequent/Intense Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References

Hi i'm Luca, one of the Ratatouille Developer. Apple have some strict guidelines about communicating position of people or devices. After 3 rejected submissione we have decided for our MVP this was the quicker way to have the app in the app store.

Another reason to do it as a web app not requiring anyone's permission.

I suppose if someone offers to share their homemade damson gin that would count as "alcohol references" ...

In the US, would someone need a permit to distribute liquor like that? Seems kind of like a grey area as it's not being sold?

We are working in a mobile webapp version :D

Not trying to hijack, but I'm working on a complimentary idea, that is much less developed. See the MVP: http://producebuddy.com

It is an app that updates weekly with the sale prices of fruits and vegetables in your area (currently phoenix only). This will be most useful for Walmart price matchers -- which is actually a surprising number of people.

Sounds similar to a site we have in the Netherlands: http://www.thuisafgehaald.nl/ ("collected from home", which is a pun on the well known site thuisbezorgd.nl or "delivered to your home", the Dutch version of takeaway.com)

To the creator, let me know if you have q's -- http://leftoverswap.com/ was a fun project for my buddy and I that seems to have brought up the exact same criticisms.

I don't believe this will succeed, but props for trying, best of luck.

Cool app, even though my friends and I usually give extra food to each other (if one of us is going to travel, for example).

It's the typical use that we have thought about Ratatouille App

Exactly the kind of app that is going to change the world for Good... Thanks to the Developer for making this happen..

until someone poisons the food or does something bad to it.

Murderers have used craigslist to find victims. Abusing an app in the manner which you describe (which I think somehow is incredibly unlikely to happen in reality), isn't necessarily a show stopper, as we have learned before.

Such things are typically illegal.

somebody could do something bad to your food in a restaurant too, you know?

Are you going out of town and looking for someone to rob your apartment? This is the app for you.

Nice thought, but you can alternatively just drop your stuff off at a neighborhood shelter. That's it. No iPhone needed.

> "Are you going out of town and looking for someone to rob your apartment? This is the app for you."

So is every check-in based app or anything that geotags your posts/photos. This is not news.

Also, it's quite likely that most people are predictably at work between the hours of 10am-4pm so there's no app nor geotagging to guess when a house may be empty.

I could "just drop my stuff off at a shelter"? Rather than finding people _nearby_ who want the food? That's the whole point of this app!

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