Food waste: Here's a new way we can all stop throwing away so much produce and tackle hunger – Steve Cardownie

There is no doubt that this pandemic has had a severe impact on people and families who were already having great difficulty in putting food on the table.

By Steve Cardownie
Tuesday, 5th January 2021, 4:45 pm
Olio has teamed up with supermarkets to help redistribute food that would otherwise go to waste and can also collect food from your home (Picture: Sarah Standing)
Olio has teamed up with supermarkets to help redistribute food that would otherwise go to waste and can also collect food from your home (Picture: Sarah Standing)

Food poverty has unfortunately been with us for some time and food banks and various charities are trying their best to mitigate its worst effects but, despite their best efforts, there are worrying signs that the problem is still entrenched and will take some shifting. The issue of food waste has not helped but food redistribution to those who need it most would be a welcome boost.

One of the many organisations which are tackling the matter of food waste is Olio, which relies on an army of volunteers to distribute the food that shops and supermarkets normally throw in a skip at the end of the day.

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Its website states that “Olio connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This could be food nearing its sell by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from your baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away. Olio is super easy! To make an item available, simply open the app, add a photo, description, and when and where the item can be picked up.”

Olio’s “Food Waste Heroes” arrange pick-ups from supermarkets etc and then itemise them on its app/web page, allowing people in the neighbourhood to see what is available and request particular food items, all for free.

It has partnered with over 100 organisations to help reduce food waste, many of which have an excellent track record throughout the UK with the aim of cutting it to zero.

The scale of the problem is mind-boggling, as pre-lockdown, it was reported that 50-70 per cent of all food waste in the UK came from household kitchens. This amounts to 6.6 million tonnes, worth £500 per household per year, with 800,000 apples and 4.4 million potatoes tossed in the bin every day and a sixth of all milk purchased being poured down the sink.

It has been demonstrated that household food waste is the major issue but one waste prevention charity estimated that 3.6 million tonnes of edible food was also lost on British farms in a year. Food waste globally accounts for approximately eight per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions which is almost the same as road transport.

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, only about six per cent of supermarket produce, around 17,500 tonnes per year, was redistributed to people with a further 23,000 tonnes coming from manufacturing companies.

According to the Trussell Trust, 1.6 million people were dependent on food banks in 2019 which is nothing short of scandalous. Unfortunately this figure is likely to have risen substantially during the pandemic as even more people have sought the assistance of food charities.

We can all do our bit in reducing the food waste that we are accountable for but we can also play a part in ensuring that our unwanted food goes to someone who needs it rather than in the bin. The Olio app can help alleviate the hardship that some people face and other charities are also doing their best. The scale of the problem is huge, the solution is in our hands!

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