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Tech City: App to cut down food wastage by giving to neighbours in need

PUBLISHED: 15:24 23 September 2015 | UPDATED: 15:24 23 September 2015

Saasha Demo-ing the app

Saasha Demo-ing the app

Archant

After reports showing that more than £12billion of food is thrown away globally every year, a new app is tackling the issue one community at a time.

Research from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), a government body, revealed the figures, as well as showing that households throw away an average of 20 per cent of their weekly shop while a million people in the UK use a food bank each year.

Now, Olio – an app designed to connect unwanted food with people who need it – is expanding to cover the east London community and confront the issue head-on.

The inspiration for Olio came from two entrepreneurs whose families have first-hand experience of food wastage.

Tessa Cook is a farmer’s daughter who effectively saw a third of her family’s hard work discarded daily, while Saasha Celestial-One is the daughter of Iowa hippies and an avid freecycler equally passionate about cutting waste.

The app already covers north London and will now cover Hackney and Islington, to then move into other boroughs in coming months.

Tessa said: “The original inspiration was when I was moving country and found myself, despite my best efforts, with lots of lovely food and I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.

“The aim of Olio is really to stop good food from being thrown away.

“We did a survey and we found a third of people were physically pained throwing away good food.”

Olio connects neighbours with each other and with local shops so that surplus food can be shared – either for sale or for free.

Tessa said: “There are so many examples of when you could use it.

“At the moment people are putting fresh or home-grown vegetables on the site. It could be used by bakeries that have to sell fresh stuff every day or if you have had a big party or are going on a holiday.”

To make food available, users open the app, add the item with a photo, description, price (if applicable), and when it’s available for pick-up.

“To access food, users browse the menu of available items, request what they want and arrange a pick-up via private messaging.

Tess said: “Eventually we want people to be doing 50 per cent of their grocery shop with Olio – we want to be part of the fabric in five years.”

The app can generate revenue by taking a platform commission, subscription models and through advertising.

In addition, the team is looking to donate sale proceeds to relevant charities.

Tessa said: “The environmental aspect here is that our food waste is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the USA and China and this is one of the things we can change.

“We are about to enter into an era of global food insecurity; we have to increase the global food production by 70 per cent to feed everybody but if we stopped wasting a fraction of our food we could take a big stride towards having global food security by 2050, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation for the UN.

“The key message is the more people who use Olio, the better it will be.

“Our plan is to expand across the rest of London early next year and out to other cities, then go international.

“We think our main competitor is the rubbish bin and that’s a pretty poor option; it doesn’t feel good to throw away food.”

To download the app, visit olioex.com.

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