By Krishna Ramanujan
The FoodKeeper app, developed at Cornell, features a searchable database for more than 500 foods and includes storage timelines, cooking tips and other practical advice for those interested in learning about the keeping quality of their foods. Important information about product dating and other food storage tips are also contained in the app. It links to a smartphone’s calendar to note product purchase date, and the app will notify you when the expiration date nears. The app also includes a 24-hour virtual hotline called “Ask Karen” for pressing food storage related questions. This feature is part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline.
The app is available free for Android and iPhone smartphones as well as tablets through their app stores and is intended for consumers, food pantries and food banks.
“The app brings some very good food storage and freshness advice to consumers, and it puts that data right in your hand on demand,” said Bob Gravani, professor of food science at Cornell, who was involved in developing the database of foods.
The software is an enhanced, interactive e-version of the popular FoodKeeper booklet, developed by the Cornell’s Department of Food Science, the Food Marketing Institute and the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline to help consumers maintain the safety, freshness and quality of foods. The FoodKeeper is one of the most popular consumer information publications from the Food Science Department and is now in its third edition.
With its advice on buying and cooking appropriate quantities and on composting, the app also contributes to the USDA’s and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s U.S. Food Waste Challenge, which seeks to reduce, recover and recycle food waste. In the United States, an estimated 40 percent of the total food supply is wasted, according to the USDA.
Cornell put together the FoodKeeper booklet with much of the work carried out by Amy Barkauskas ’13, who researched all the foods in the database, updated information, telephoned companies and obtained shelf life information on all foods.
The USDA provided the guidelines for meat, poultry and egg products, and the Food Marketing Institute provided oversight and funded publication of the brochure. The USDA funded the app.