Stop Food Waste Day takes place on 28th April this year. With an estimated 33% of all food produced globally wasted and the average British family throwing away over £700 worth of food, according to food charity WRAP, people across the UK will be encouraged to consider the waste they produce and how they can cut down.
Reducing food waste allows individuals to be kinder to the planet by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and, according to eco-initiative Project Drawdown, is the number one thing we can do to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis, coming above electric cars, solar power and plant-based diets.
Sharing app OLIO was founded in 2015 to help tackle food waste after co-founder Tessa Clarke was moving home from Switzerland and wanted to give away her surplus food to a neighbour. With no obvious solution, Tessa moved back to the UK and started to think about how she could help. Thus OLIO was born, an app that allows people to give away surplus food to those in the local community. It’s now being used in 59 countries by over three million people who have shared 18 million portions of food that would otherwise have gone to waste.
As well as enabling us to be kinder to the planet, cutting down on the food we throw away also helps save money and can build stronger local communities. This Stop Food Waste Day, Tessa shares her simple tips on how to make a difference:
1) Make sure to always shop with a list that corresponds to the meals you’ve planned that week. Planning your meals means you’re much less likely to waste food, plus it saves money too.
2) Shop for one less meal than you need each week and always have one cupboard meal as a go-to; that way if your plans change you won’t waste the fresh food you just bought.
3) Store your food correctly – for example tomatoes should never be in the fridge; potatoes and onions should never be stored together; and herbs should be kept like flowers in water.
4) Serve smaller portion sizes to cut down on food waste – smaller plates can be an easy hack here.
5) Know your food dates – the Use By date is a health & safety date, whereas the Best Before date means exactly that: the food is optimal before that date but can be perfectly safe and delicious to eat well after that.
6) Make your freezer your friend – it’s not just the obvious like bread and chicken that can be frozen, but also lots of other things such as milk, eggs and herbs too.
7) Have an ‘eat me soon’ shelf in your fridge so perishable items don’t get forgotten.
8) Collect takeaway containers or Tupperware, so you always have plenty to store food in.
9) If you’ve made too much food, make sure to save your leftovers for another day. Leftovers can be surprisingly delicious as the flavours tend to develop after marinating for a day or two.
10) If all else fails, then do make sure to share your spare with a neighbour via the OLIO app!
Here are some of the lockdown heroes feeding their communities by fighting food waste:
Nicky Wilson, 38, Chester.
“I’ve distributed food amongst everyone from neighbours, retirement homes residents, firefighters and paramedics.”
“I live with my partner and our 14 year old son, and our cat who has also benefited from OLIO!
“I signed up originally as I was becoming more aware of food waste and environmental issues as my son was getting older and more plugged into these things. My friend had heard about OLIO from her sister who lives in Sheffield. She started approaching businesses in Chester and the surrounding area asking about their food waste, introducing OLIO and suggesting they sign up. She signed up Pret A Manger and invited me to join her as a Food Waste Hero.
“My most memorable collection was when I had to do four separate trips from the supermarket store to the car as there was so much food. Even after completing everyone’s requests I still had food leftover so I took a huge bag of baguettes, sandwiches, salads and pastries to the local fire station and ambulance station.
“My other favourite collection which rivals this is when the first lockdown occurred, I called our local Costa and asked if they needed anything collecting. I collected 46 two-litre pouches of milk, multiple toasties and paninis, pastries and cakes, including a full huge coffee cake which I gave to a retirement home near me to share out with the residents.
“I love several things about OLIO, the amount of food waste we save is fantastic and I have made some amazing friends and met some lovely people along the way, both other Food Waste Heroes and also collectors. If you go on OLIO on any given day you’ll find some random weird and wonderful items but also things that you think ‘yeah actually I was going to buy one of them’.”
Petko Petkoff, 52, Brentford.
“When my job in finance slowed, I started sharing food to help others – I’ve never been busier!”
When Petko Petkoff saw work from his day job as a self-employed financial controller slow down due to the Covid-19 outbreak he decided to take on a new challenge as a full time volunteer with food waste app OLIO – and he’s never been busier…
Since March, Petko has been working 12 hour days, often seven days a week, delivering food (over 4,000 kg to date and counting) to those in need throughout London. Hospitals, homeless kitchens & charities are benefiting from Petko’s desire to ensure that good food, rendered surplus to market requirements by the coronavirus crisis, doesn’t go to waste.
The OLIO app gives organisations such as supermarkets and wholesalers, the opportunity to advertise surplus food that is then collected and distributed by volunteers to other app users. Due to the large quantities of food being collected during Covid-19, volunteers like Petko have been finding local groups such as homeless shelters and soup kitchens to bring on board, in addition to existing recipients who have signed up to the app.
One anecdote in particular offers an insight into the strength of relationships he has built in such a short space of time. Once, work commitments meant he stopped redistributing food for seven days: “All these kitchen [staff] who were used to seeing me at least twice a day suddenly stopped seeing me.” Within days he started receiving concerned text messages from his customers asking whether he and his family were ok.