Free Food On Offer As App Targets Cambs Waste

16 June 2016, 06:00

A new mobile food app is launching today targeting the food mountain we produce in Cambridgeshire every week - and it could mean free food for charities or vulnerable people.

After a number of successful roll-outs across several UK cities recently, a food sharing app "OLIO" is today launching in Cambridge. 

Smartphone users throughout the city now have access to the app providing local people and businesses with a simple way to reduce the food they waste. 

Created by a Cambridge University graduate, OLIO is a free app that connects neighbours with each other and with local independent shops so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This could 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 or move home.

To access the app, 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, and arrange pick-up from home, the store, an OLIO Drop Box, or another agreed location.

The business launches in Cambridge at a time of rising concern at the impact of food waste with local bodies and students running initiatives against food waste, such as the recent launch of The Cambridge University Foodbank Society. The social, economic and environmental case for action is compelling. Globally, a third of all food produced is wasted (FAO), and in the UK, households - which are responsible for half of all food waste - collectively bin over £12.5bn of edible food per year, at a cost of £700 to the average family (WRAP). 

The creators say:

"The inspiration for the app came from the early experiences of co-founders Tessa Cook and Saasha Celestial-One, entrepreneurs raised in rural families witnessing the scandal of food waste close up. Cambridge graduate Cook grew up on a farm, effectively seeing a third of her family's hard work go to waste, while Celestial-One is the daughter of Iowa hippies and equally passionate about the issue. 

Since launching in December 2015, OLIO has been used over 210,000 times and featured twice by Apple as 'Best new app' in the App Store. OLIO was also the first retail technology start-up Sainsbury's partnered with on their 'Waste Less, Save More' initiative.

"We're constantly looking at how to make Cambridge greener, and we have a fantastic opportunity to do this by tackling food waste. People are often too shy or suspicious of accepting something for free, but food sharing is a great way to get to know your neighbours and other people in your community. Initiatives like this are breaking down barriers, and the city is ready for OLIO to ramp up the food sharing revolution", commented Rebecca Scambler, local OLIO ambassador and designer."

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner said: 

"While so many go hungry, it is simply not acceptable that good food ends up in the bin. So it's great to see an answer to the problem of food waste that is generated in the household and the high street. OLIO not only saves food from going uneaten but brings communities together. I look forward to welcoming OLIO to Cambridge."

To mark the launch, OLIO is hosting a Pot Luck Picnic on Saturday 18th June from 2-4pm on Jesus Green, Cambridge. The OLIO team can't wait to bring the service to a city with such an appetite for food waste reduction already established. 

OLIO co-founder Tessa Cook said: 

"Cambridge has a fantastic thriving community of people who are passionate about food waste and changing the world. As a graduate of the University, the city feels a perfect match for OLIO, and I can't wait to bring it here".