Share Surplus Food with Neighbors Using the Olio App

This clever food-sharing app is diverting tons of food from landfill.

Olio food-sharing appAn Olio user hands over extra vegetables to someone who can use them.- Olio

There was a time in the past when, if you had surplus food in your fridge, you may have knocked on a neighbor's door to see if they wanted it. Now, unfortunately, many people are reluctant to do this. We lead more insular lives and may feel awkward initiating such a display of generosity, especially if it's unsolicited. As a result, uneaten food often ends up getting tossed in the trash.

 Olio hopes to change that. This ingenious food-sharing app allows people with extra food to post a picture online and anyone who wants it can respond and pick it up, usually within minutes or hours of it being posted. No money is exchanged, no swapping or bartering takes place – it's a straightforward gift of surplus food to someone who can prevent it from going to waste. You might even make a new friend in the process!

The app was created in 2015 by two entrepreneurs, Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One, in England. Since then it has grown rapidly, with nearly 3.5 million people using it in 50 countries. The app saw even greater participation throughout 2020, when food insecurity spiked due to the pandemic.  A press release from Olio says that "over 4.3 million items have been successfully shared between neighbours," equivalent to preventing 3,775 tonnes of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere and eliminating 12,171,045 car miles from the road.

 Olio app co-founders

 Tessa Clark and Saasha Celestial-One, co-founders of Olio.

Clarke told the Guardian that, in the United Kingdom, roughly a third of all food is thrown away – half of it in people’s homes. "Each family throws away an average of £730 [$1,000] of food each year," she said. Olio strives to fix this in a simple, straightforward way. "The app connects people with others who have surplus food but don’t have anyone to give it to because so many people are disconnected from their communities."

Olio volunteers
Olio volunteers pick up surplus food from a retailer for redistribution.

It's a great idea that will hopefully continue to expand around the world as people realize the benefits of sharing food, rather than discarding it. In Clarke's words, "It feels good to share. It’s an example of positivity in a pretty grim world." 

Katherine Martinko, March 2021