OLIO: The App That’s Trying to End Food Waste

Maddy White
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Food waste app OLIO wants to redistribute surplus food destined for the bin. Useful innovation or faux-tech problem-solving?

One-third of food produced globally is thrown away or lost. This amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes of perfectly decent comestibles being wasted each year. Food waste app OLIO is on a mission to redistribute this surplus food by local sharing.

“Over three years ago OLIO didn’t exist, we had no idea people would be so excited about food sharing. People don’t like food going to waste.” Co-founder of OLIO, Tessa Cook told The Versed.

Is this a legitimate revolution or another failed tech venture?

Photo by OLIO

The food sharing revolution?

OLIO encourages extra food to be shared between neighbours, local shops and communities in an effort to counter waste. It’s the brainchild of Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook, and with over 400,000 users, might just be the answer to this problem.

The app has saved over 170,000 meals from being wasted. In order to share food, the site says: “Simply snap a photo, add a brief description and provide pick-up details. A lovely neighbour will be delighted to take it off your hands.”

Cook added: “The goal is to solve food waste by bringing communities together and sharing food. We have over 400,000 users but we want 400 million and if we can help reduce food waste then we can also begin to reduce climate change as well.”

Users range from students to pensioners in their 70s, Cook explained OLIO is also being utilised internationally and that Millennials will continue to use the app.

“We have plenty of data to suggest that millennials will use the app, they are further concerned with sustainability and the environment. And not just this, many millennials move to cities where they don’t know anyone so the app also brings people together in real life.”

But what about national scale food redistribution and solving UK hunger? Surely OLIO can’t counter food waste on this level with just an app.

Neighbours can use your unwanted food. Photo by OLIO

Surplus to requirements?

Fare Share food redistribution charity spokesperson Susie Haywood told The Versed, “We are the largest food redistribution charity in the UK, annually we save 13.5 tonnes of food, which is over 28 million meals.”

“We take food which has been labelled incorrectly in supermarkets, if there is a boom in say parsnips but no one is buying them, we take this and redistribute it over the UK.”

Haywood explains Fare Share redistribute the food they collect to over 7,000 charities across Britain. She added: “These charities provide meals as part of their services to people in need – such as children’s breakfast clubs, day clubs for older people, domestic violence victims, refugees, homeless shelters and drug and alcohol rehab units.”

There is more to food waste than food. OLIO is an effective response to hyper-local food waste and there is no doubt the app will and does result in the redistribution of goods otherwise destined for the bin. But it is not likely to scratch the surface of the other issues surrounding food distribution such as, hunger and poverty. Charities like Fare Share are tackling these things.

OLIO can help communities network and provide them with a simple means to take their neighbour’s extra eggs or pick up the corner shop’s over-ripe bananas. On a local scale, this type waste reduction can be very effective. Can it end food global food waste? Of course not. But it can provide local communities with a valuable resource.

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