Is your smartphone the best tool in the fight against wasted food? We’ve been chatting to the team behind ethical app OLIO to find an answer…

Food waste is a big problem in today’s all-you-can-eat culture, with our food being mass produced to accommodate an ever-increasing population. The thing is, we often don’t eat everything on our plates.

Why is leftover food a problem, you may ask? And how can you use your smartphone to fix the problem? We spoke to Tessa Cook, Co-Founder of OLIO, to find out…

Gifting your groceries

“OLIO exists to tackle the problem of food waste, and specifically food waste in the home,” Tessa says. “Globally, over one third of all the food we produce gets thrown away, which is worth over $1 trillion annually. And in a country like the UK, households are responsible for well over half of all that food waste, with the average UK family throwing away £800 of food that could have been eaten each year, collectively adding up to £15bn!

“So we believe that in this day and age, it’s absolute madness that perfectly good food should be thrown in the bin, when there are people nearby who would like it! And hundreds of thousands of people agree with us.”

And that’s where the OLIO app – available on both iOS and Android – comes in. It aims to pair your unwanted food with someone else within your community for free. Within the app, you simply snap a photo of the item of food you don’t need or want, add a description (including quantity and use by date), state your pick-up times, and submit. It’s as simple as that, as this handy video shows:

As you can see, it’s not only tinned goods that are shared, but everything from fresh produce to hand-cooked meals. Tessa explains:

“Amongst householders we see lots of cupboard items such as soups, pulses, crisps, chocolate as well as fresh fruit and veg. Funnily enough, tea is one of our most shared items as people seem to experiment with fancy flavours that they don’t like, and then don’t know what to do with the rest of the box!”

Cook too much dinner one night? Tessa says that you can “absolutely use OLIO to share extra portions of cooked food. And it would probably be snapped up quickly, too, as 40% of all listings are requested in less than one hour.” Just make sure you describe the ingredients used – no one wants to be caught short on the allergen front!

The really good news? OLIO’s source of food isn’t just from regular people; produce also comes from a bunch of high street retail partners like Pret a Manger, Morrisons, and Sainsburys, where food is collected and then redistributed daily via the app, and thanks to OLIO’s Food Waste Heroes who volunteer their time for the cause.

Get yourself connected

So, while excess food may have historically been stacking up in your cupboards for weeks or months, OLIO has so far shared over 650,000 portions of food across 32 countries.

But it’s not only helping people reduce food waste, it’s also helping build communities…

“I’m very pleased to say that, in practice, it’s the meeting of other people that is the real appeal of OLIO,” Tessa says in closing. “Our users consistently tell us how much more connected to their community they feel as a result, and safer through knowing their neighbours.”

So why not give it a go? Download OLIO, share you unwanted food, and meet your neighbours! Check the OLIO website for more details.

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