The Green Room

I work to reduce food waste. AMA

Liam Jones was part of a food sharing network during his undergraduate studies in Manchester. Returning to London in 2016, he volunteered with OLIO in its early stages and became a full-time employee soon after. He is now responsible for growing OLIO’s ‘Food Waste Heroes programme’, where volunteers collect surplus food from local retailers, offices and schools and share it with fellow OLIOers in their local communities so that no good food goes to waste.

This will be a great chance to ask Liam all of your burning questions on food waste and find out more about the fantastic work Olio does.

We hope to see you here Tuesday 10th August at 12pm!

You’ll need to sign up to the forum to take part. Once you have signed up, add this event to your calendar by clicking the three dots in the invitation above.

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Hi Liam,
Thanks for doing this AMA, looking forward to your responses on Tuesday!

Event organisers often tell us they cannot redistribute their waste food for legal reasons. Can you shed some light on this - is it true?

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Hi Liam, thank you for joining us today! How can the events industry use Olio to reduce food waste?

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Hi Liam,
Thanks for being here today! Food waste has a stigma suggesting that the quality and freshness of the food isn’t as good ‘fresh’ food. I was wondering if the willingness people have when it comes to eating the dishes that are made from food that would have gone to waste has changed in the past few years?
Do people change their mind on the quality of the dish they have been served when they are told it was made from food that would have been thrown out?
Would you say it is easy to plan and provide a set menu for an event if you purely rely on food waste or would you have to rely heavily on another source?

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In short, no, it’s not true that event organisers cannot redistribute food for legal reasons. OLIO’s food safety management system was devised with input from the FSA, and we’ve received assured advice from our primary authority to confirm that our processes are safe, robust and legally sound.

Every business that donates to OLIO (and we collect from 7,000+ locations every week) must sign a copy of our business donor agreement, which indemnifies both parties in the event that someone makes a complaint. The agreement stipulates that the donor is responsible for making sure the food is safe to eat only until it’s in the hands of the volunteers, after which it becomes OLIO’s responsibility to make sure our volunteers are properly trained, and the volunteers’ responsibility to follow these instructions.

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Hi Hannah! The events industry can use OLIO’s Food Waste Heroes programme, which involves matching OLIO’s pool of 40,000+ trained volunteers with local food businesses so that any surplus food these businesses produce can be collected and redistributed among the local community, rather than thrown away.

Hi Liam,
Thanks for this, love Olio!

If I was working on an event, e.g. a large conference, what’s the process for getting any wasted food onto the Olio app? Would I need to notify Olio in advance that this was coming? How would you recommend that the food should be packaged? Are there any foods that are not acceptable on the app?

Hi Jane, glad to be here!

I think attitudes towards eating surplus food are changing. Almost 2 million items of surplus food are successfully shared on the OLIO app every month, and more than half of this food is requested within 20 minutes!

I’m not an expert on this but my feeling is that it would be difficult to plan a set menu based on surplus food. The nature of food waste is that you never know what will be left over, or how much

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Hi Jonny, thanks for the kind words! The best way to do it would be to give OLIO as much notice as possible, as this gives us time to recruit and train a local volunteer (or a team of volunteers) to collect and redistribute the food for you. The volunteer will then attend the venue at an agreed time, collect whatever is left over, and then take the food home to share with their community via the OLIO app.

We collect all food types - including hot, chilled, frozen and ambient. The only conditions are that a) the food needs to be safe to eat at the time that it’s donated, and b) we need the allergen information for all food that you donate.

As for the packaging, bearing in mind that the food is being shared with ordinary app users, individual portions are best if possible.

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Great, thanks Liam! What can supermarkets do to reduce the amount of food that gets wasted and thrown away?

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Hi @LjonesOLIO,

Many thanks for agreeing to facilitate this AMA on Food Waste and well done on all your efforts & achievements so far with OLIO!

We set up Food AWARE CIC in 2008 to support deprived communities across South Yorkshire with surplus food, volunteer/training opportunities & general grassroots community support - www.foodawarecic.org.UK

Demand for our services….as you can imagine…has gone crackers since the COVID pandemic hit and we now support over 4,000 people each week across 70+ community orgs/partners.

We prioritise surplus food past ‘Best Before’ date which we receive in good quantity at our Hellaby base in Rotherham and redistribute to our community partners each week.

My burning question is -

What happens to all of the food which the National players such as FareShare are unable to redistribute (as they are unable to pass anything past ‘Best Before’ date to their community project even though it is perfectly safe to eat…and it would be the right thing to do??!

Does OLIO receive any of this and can you explain why FareShare would not do this as it surely it is I their core objective to save good food and ‘fight hunger and food waste’?!

Any info or pointers as to why or how we can tap into this surplus food would be very much appreciated. Thanks

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That’s amazing that people are more willing to use surplus food! Seeing as people and supermarkets are becoming more conscious of their own food waste and trying to reduce it, do you think the food waste providing industry will see a decline in stock and won’t be able to provide as much as they previously could?

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They can work with OLIO, of course :wink:

There are lots of things that supermarkets can do to reduce food waste. The first step is to reduce the amount of waste that’s generated in the first place by tracking where waste is occurring and coming up with ways to prevent it; the next step is to reduce the price of surplus items to increase the chances of selling it; then the remaining items should be offered to the charity sector; and whatever the charity sector can’t absorb should be donated to OLIO.

It’s a concept called the food waste recovery hierarchy - worth looking into if you’re interested!

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Great questions Sean, and it sounds like a brilliant initiative you’ve set up!

I’m so glad to hear this!

OLIO works very closely with FareShare to collect the food that they’re unable to absorb for operational reasons (eg hot food, or food with a short shelf life). We collect alongside FareShare Go (which is their solution for food types that need to be shared quickly) at Tesco, and have plans to launch a joint solution elsewhere.

Have you approached busineses to ask if you can collect the food that FareShare can’t take? What objections did you hear if so?

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It would be great if the amount of food waste were to decline dramatically, but we still have a very long way to go before this happens. Food waste is not only driven by inefficiency - there are often commercial reasons for producing surplus food, such as having to ensure that every guest at an event could conceivably order every item on the menu.

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, at present between 1/2 and 1/3 of all food produced globally is thrown away, so unfortunately we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface.

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Do you have any ideas on how can we make people more aware of how wasteful we are as a society?

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That’s a wrap folks! Thank you so much Liam for joining us today and for sharing your knowledge and thanks to everyone for their questions.

If you have any other questions for Liam, you can message him on here at @LjonesOLIO
or through email - liam@olioex.com.

Join us in the Green Room same time next week for another Ask Me Anything! :grinning: