Minister seeks food shortage help from Norwich students

Norwich school students promoting their FoodSafe app at the Forum trade fair. From left: Lucy Wilkes

Norwich school students promoting their FoodSafe app at the Forum trade fair. From left: Lucy Wilkes, Mark Awad, Hamish Bryson, Rob Youngs, Freddie Buckley and Faye Powell. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

A group of teenage entrepreneurs have secured meetings with a government minister and a senior Tesco executive to discuss how a mobile phone app they developed could help cut the amount of food that shoppers waste.

The 14 lower sixth form students at Norwich School came up with their Food Safe app after they formed a company as part of the Young Enterprise scheme, which encourages students to learn about the world of business first-hand.

The app was the brainwave of managing director Rob Youngs, who said: 'For the first six weeks we struggled to come up with a company name, never mind a product. We wanted to identify a problem and come up with a solution.

'The problem we came up with was food wastage, because there were quite a lot of statistics being broadcast at the time. I had the idea at home that many people were using phones and apps and if we could incorporate that we would be on to a winner. A lot of people open a pack of food and eat some of it and then can't remember when they opened it, and some people who give it a sniff say 'I'm not willing to risk food poisoning', and throw it away.'

The app allows people to scan the barcode on the packet when they open it, and they then receive a warning message two days before it is due to become unsafe to eat, reminding them to consume it.

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The company initially planned to raise the £5,000 it expected to pay a software developer to put the idea into practice, but instead received £10,000 worth of help from software developers Astutech after Mr Youngs shared his four-page plan.

Mr Youngs wrote to his local MP Keith Simpson saying he would like to meet with the environment minister, and got an email back saying he was impressed with his work.

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He will now meet David Heath, minister of state for agriculture and food, in Westminster on Wednesday.

He will also meet Tesco head of social policy George Gordon, with whom he had already held conference calls and exchanged emails.

The phone application can be downloaded for 69p, and rose to 10th in the bestseller list in the food and drink category within days of its release.

The company is now preparing to compete against seven other companies in the East of England Young Enterprise final on June 24. The winner will go to a national final, with a European competition taking place afterwards.

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