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A Neighbor Wants Your Spare Produce


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Every year, one-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted.

And yet, in 2019, about 2 billion people didn’t have regular access to enough safe and nutritious food.
So how do we keep perfectly good food out of landfills, and get it to those who need it?
Tessa Clarke built an app for that.

In 2015, she and Saasha Celestial-One co-founded OLIO, a neighbor-to-neighbor food-sharing app.

Through OLIO, users can upload photos of their spare food for neighbors to request, and then coordinate a pick up.

“No one enjoys throwing away food. The reason they do is that they don’t have anyone to give their food to. Technology enables us to reconnect with our local community.”

– Tessa Clarke

The mutual-aid tool offers a localized solution to a global problem.

When food rots in a landfill, it produces methane. If lost and wasted food were a country, it would be the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter.

This year, when COVID-19 sent the UK into lockdown, the health crisis exacerbated social and economic disparities, making vulnerable populations even more vulnerable.

It became clear…

People needed help.

And they wanted to help each other.

“We’ve seen the unconscionable levels of inequality we have in our society laid bare for everybody.”

– Tessa Clarke

The OLIO team pivoted to contact-free pickups to abide by health and safety guidelines—and saw a meteoric spike in users.
“In the last five weeks, we have grown more than we did in the previous five years.”
Food sharing became a way for OLIO users to respond to the cascading crises of COVID-19 that had tangible consequences in their communities.

School closures meant kids couldn’t rely on school lunches.

So OLIO promoted app-based campaigns to encourage users to share home-cooked meals with children and essential workers.
They cooked over 20,000 meals.

Meanwhile, offices, caterers, universities, food wholesalers–businesses fearing the food stuck in their supply chains would go to waste–reached out to OLIO for help.

In response, OLIO marshaled volunteers to collect the food for redistribution through their Food Waste Heroes program.

But while the pandemic has made hunger and food waste more visible, those problems won’t go away with a vaccine.

To feed a growing, hungry global population,

Tessa wants to scale up.

Early estimates indicate between 83 and 132 million more people will be undernourished in 2020 because of the pandemic.

“We want a billion people to be using OLIO within the next 10 years, because that is what humanity has to achieve if we’re to stand any chance whatsoever of mitigating the worst effects of the climate crisis.”

– Tessa Clarke

She’s not the only one who wants to see that happen.

In 2018, she joined Unreasonable Impact, a partnership between Barclays and the Unreasonable Group.
This year, she received an Unreasonable Impact COVID-19 Response Initiative grant that will help her introduce OLIO to more communities.
For Tessa, it’s validating to be part of a support network of entrepreneurs who also view their work as an extension of their values.

“When I first met the other Unreasonable Impact fellows, I cried because it felt so amazing to meet other people who made me feel like I wasn’t this weird, strange person, but that, actually, I belonged.

For them, like me, it's just common sense that profit should be inextricably linked with purpose.”

You can learn more about OLIO here.

And you can read more about Unreasonable Impact, and what their fellows are doing to leave the world slightly better than they found it, here.