Share Surplus Food with Neighbors Using the Olio App

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

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


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."

Giving food away diverts it from landfill, which has a significant environmental benefit. From the Guardian:

"Almost 1.4 billion hectares of land – close to 30% of the world’s agricultural land – is dedicated to producing food that is never eaten; and the carbon footprint of food wastage makes it the third emitter of CO2 after the US and China, according to the FAO [UN's Food and Agriculture Organization]. Reducing food waste is one of the most effective ways of tackling the global climate crisis, says Project Drawdown, which ranks the impact of measures on reducing heat-trapping gases."

Olio has also moved into facilitating the redistribution of surplus food from supermarkets. It kicked off a partnership with Tesco last fall, where 8,000 volunteers collect non-sellable or close-to-expiration food from all of Tesco's 2,700 U.K. branches and post the items to the app for pickup. After a successful six-month trial at 250 stores, 36 tonnes of food were redistributed, "with half of all food listings added to the app requested in less than one hour." Clearly, there is hot demand for such a service.

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."