Over the last few years, the scandal of food waste has rightfully moved from the periphery to the mainstream. From prime-time documentaries on the subject, to France’s trail-blazing legislation banning supermarkets from binning unsold food - the chorus of campaigning is louder than ever. The issue has featured heavily in the news and thrust higher onto the political agenda and public imagination.
With each passing month there are new, budding solutions to the food waste problem. From pickles, jams, juices and beer made from ingredients destined for the bin, to pioneering zero waste restaurants and surplus supper clubs lead by Michelin-starred chefs, the commitment to the cause evolves every day in different ways.
We are proud to be a part of this fight, and our targeted battle is against household food waste. Households in the UK bin more than £13bn of edible food every year, costing families £700 per year. It’s totally insane, but we’ve all done it.
We buy food we don’t have time to cook. We forget about leftovers in the back of the fridge. Conservative and arbitrary use-by dates encourage the senseless culling of our fridge contents. It doesn’t have to be this way. We should be sharing food with each other, not the bin.
OLIO is a free app that aims to remedy this by connecting neighbours with each other and with local businesses to share their surplus food. This could include food nearing its sell-by or best before, a glut of apples from an allotment, unused cupboard items, or veggies you won’t use in time when going away. Users simply snap a picture of their items and post them on OLIO for their neighbour to request and collect.
In just two years, OLIO has expanded from the modest confines of north London where we started out, and has grown into a global food sharing movement. Over 250,000 people have downloaded our app and over 300,000 items of food have been shared all over the world, in countries as far-flung as South Africa, Australia, the US and Japan.
What I’m most proud of is our thriving volunteer network - the beating heart of OLIO. We’ve had over 12,000 people reach out to us from all over the world, requesting to bring OLIO to their neighbourhood and spark waste-busting movements in their communities.
Recently, a woman in Jersey has been burning a trail with her volunteering activities. In the space of 4 months, she has convinced several businesses to join our Food Waste Heroes programme, where businesses share their surplus food with OLIO volunteers, who in turn share with their neighbours. She has been featured on the local news and has even been nominated as the island's Environmentalist of the Year award.
Technology may be the backbone of OLIO but it is the offline interactions and community spirit that define us. We are increasingly becoming more isolated from each other in this day and age, so it heartening to see neighbours who otherwise might not have met get to know each other through food sharing via OLIO, fostering a sense of community in the process.
And it’s not just the community benefit, there’s the environmental one too. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter behind the U.S. and China. By sharing food and combatting food waste, we are each playing a significant role in mitigating climate change. As they say, small actions make a big difference.
If you want to stand up to climate change, get to know your community and get free food in the process, please join our food sharing revolution.