Good Food Doncaster interviews Olio a dynamic initiative that’s changing lives

At Good Food Doncaster we like to catch up with people making a difference on the food scene. Today we’ve been talking to Tessa founder of Olio. Check out the organisation to see what amazing work they are doing regarding repurposing food and preventing food waste. They have been featured in The Guardian, on the BBC, Time Out and have really created a buzz with a simple idea that really works.

Tell us a little about Olio

OLIO is a free app that connects neighbours with each other. It also connects volunteers with local shops & cafes. This means surplus food can be shared and not thrown away.  We aim to reduce food waste

Users simply snap a picture of their items and add them to OLIO. Neighbours then receive customised alerts and can request anything that takes their fancy. Pick-up takes place – often the same day – at the home or another agreed location.

Items typically found on the app include food nearing its use-by date from shops, cafes and markets; spare vegetables from the allotment; cakes from an amateur baker; or groceries from household fridges when people go away, move home or start a diet.  You can see how easy it can be to create food waste.

All the food on OLIO is either available for free, and half of all listings are requested in less than 1 hour! OLIO also has a non-food section for other household items such as toiletries, kitchen equipment, books, toys & clothes. Since launching in the UK 3 years ago, 850,000 people have joined OLIO and together they’ve shared over 1.25 million portions of food!

Tessa Clarke - founder of Olio

What inspired you to start Olio?

I’m a farmer’s daughter, and so have always hated throwing away good food. This is because I know from first-hand experience of just how much hard work goes into producing it!  So why create food waste?As a result, the inspiration for OLIO came when I was moving country and found myself on moving day with some good food that we hadn’t managed to eat, but that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away. And so I set off on a bit of a wild goose chase to try and find someone to give it to, and I failed miserably.

Through the whole process it seemed to me crazy that I should have to throw this food away when there were surely plenty of people within hundreds of metres of me who would love it, the problem was they just didn’t know about it. And so the idea of OLIO, a mobile app where neighbours and local shops & cafes can share surplus food, came about. It’s simple but effective and does make a difference to the amount of food we waste.

Olio Mobile App

Once my Co-Founder (Saasha Celestial-One) and I started researching the problem of food waste, we became even more committed to solving the problem because what we discovered was truly shocking. Specifically, globally one third of all the food we produce gets thrown away which is worth over $1 trillion p.a., whilst 800m people go hungry (who could be fed on a quarter of the food we waste in the West), and if food waste were to be a country, it would be the third largest source of greenhouse gases, after the USA and China! But what very few people realise is that over half of all food waste in the UK takes place in the home, with the average UK family throwing away £800 of food each year that could’ve been eaten, collectively adding up to £15bn!

What has surprised you on the journey to launching Olio, from both a food waste and personal perspective?

Tessa Clarke with vegetable box

The sheer scale of food waste has truly shocked me, however I was aware of this when we set up OLIO. What I wasn’t aware of though, is just how much hunger and food poverty there is in this country – even in this day and aged. On the positive side though, I’ve been incredibly touched by many thousand acts of everyday kindness that I’ve seen through the OLIO app and that our users have emailed us about – it’s really restored my faith in humanity!

Can you recommend a few simple things to alleviate food waste in the home?

Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to reduce food waste is to plan for your meals each week, and then to shop to that plan. Also learn to love your freezer – it’s amazing how many things can be frozen and then used later on. And finally, there are lots of tips and tricks that can be found online about how to store food properly to preserve it for longer e.g. keep onions and potatoes apart; keep tomatoes out of the fridge; pop a slice of onion in with an opened avocado; plus many, many more!

If food waste, food sustainability and food insecurity bothers you then do come to our conference discussing all three things. You can book your ticket right here. The conference is on 13th March 2019 at CAST theatre, Doncaster.

Food Glorious Food Conference 2019 Tickets

Are you seeing a direct correlation between food poverty and food waste

The two issues are interlinked, because increasingly food waste is being diverted to feed people in need, and can provide a real lifeline. However neither issue can solve the other, and to suggest that they can isn’t actually that helpful. This is because there aren’t enough hungry people to eat all the food that is wasted in this country; and the solution to food poverty isn’t the sporadic handout of surplus food – it’s the provision of other basic services/rights such as a living wage, healthcare services, education etc etc.

How do you see the food landscape changing in the next ten years – ie in terms of the rising numbers of vegetarianism, veganism and how this will affect food waste?

In order to feed the world in 2050 – with a population of almost 10 billion people – we need to increase global food production by 50%. It’s therefore going to become increasingly unsustainable to continue to throw away 1/3 of all the food we produce. In order to feed us all sustainably, we will also need to see a mass move towards a more plant based diet as a matter of urgency, and it’s very good to see that this movement seems to be growing in its strength.

home delivery food  by Olio

What is the future of Olio?

In the next two months we want to reach a major milestone of 1 million people having joined OLIO! However as we look to the long term, our vision is an unashamedly bold one – it’s of a world with billions of people using OLIO to share our most precious resource, food. Whilst we’ve made a great start, we still have a very long way to go!