KERB push the boundaries this June as they launch KERB Crates – a series of open-air lunchtime talks and performances exploring the theme ‘What is the city for?’. We get behind-the-scenes with Saasha Celestial-One, of OLIO… 

How did OLIO begin?

OLIO is a free app connecting neighbours with each other and with independent shops so that good food can be shared rather than thrown away. The inspiration for OLIO came when my good friend and co-founder, Tessa Cook, was moving back from abroad and found herself with some perfectly good sweet potatoes and cabbage which she didn’t know what to do with. After unsuccessfully looking for someone to share her bounty with, she ended up smuggling the produce into the country rather than letting them go to waste in her vacant flat. Once back in the UK, she told me this story, lamenting that there must be an easier and more modern way to share food, and I instantly thought she was on to an amazing idea that I wanted to help bring to life. Within an hour we had chosen a name and OLIO The Food Sharing Revolution, was born.

Tell us a few statistics on food waste…

Globally, over a third of all food produced goes to waste, worth $1 trillion per year in total. In the UK 50% of food waste takes place in our homes. In fact, the average family in the UK throws away 22% of their weekly shop, the equivalent of £700 of edible groceries per year. The good news is there’s definitely a growing public consciousness with regard to food waste, and its environmental, financial and social impact. However, this needs to translate into widespread individual action to reduce in-home food waste before we will see a significant impact.


OLIO take the stage this Thursday

How does OLIO the app work?

OLIO is super simple – anyone who has food they aren’t going to eat (or sell) simply takes a photo, writes a brief description and uploads to the app. Users nearby receive alerts when food is added and can browse and request whatever they fancy. We’ve had over 100,000 items of food shared on the app since making it available across the UK in January!

Have you faced any challenges with OLIO and how have you overcome them?

One of our biggest challenges with OLIO is the irony that our earliest adopters – who hate food waste – are also unlikely to actually have any surplus food to share. OLIO is essentially a hyperlocal marketplace for sharing surplus food, and whilst demand for items posted is very strong, we’re still working to figure out how to unlock the ‘supply’ of surplus food. We need to become part of people’s daily lives, and this will take time.

How can Londoners be more conservative in preventing food waste. Do you have any top tips?

Adopt more of a ‘made to order’ mentality, buying what you need in smaller quantities, more frequently. Be adventurous in substituting ingredients when cooking, and think of recipes as inspiration (not prescription). Put an ‘eat me’ box in your fridge – anything that needs to be eaten within 24 hours gets migrated to the box, which should be front and centre when you open the fridge door. And, of course, if you’ve over catered for a party, are going away or are given an unwanted food gift, share your surplus on OLIO.


Get to KERB Crates for more lunchtime debates

Are there any other urban food initiatives, places or products that you think have been inventive in reusing waste?

Yes, absolutely! London is full of food waste entrepreneurs, activists and volunteers. Tiny Leaf is London’s first organic, vegetarian, zero waste restaurant, and Snact fruit jerky made from surplus produce is delicious. As a beer lover and food waste hater, I’m drinking Toast Ale, made from surplus bread, and with all proceeds donated to Feedback, the anti-food waste campaigning organisation, I can feel good about it too.

Are there any food products that come up a lot on OLIO or unusual ones?

Tea, chocolate and surplus organic veg from subscription delivery boxes are very commonly offered on OLIO. Now that it’s summer, we’re also seeing a lot of home-grown produce and BBQ surplus. There are a lot of unusual ‘starter’ ingredients on offer too – sourdough, kefir grains, and kombucha scoby, for example.

What will you be discussing at KERB Crates?

At KERB crates I’ll be discussing the scale of food waste and why it matters, why food sharing is a viable solution, the inspiration for OLIO and our traction to date, and our vision for a sustainable food future.

KERB Crates | OLIO speak this Thursday 30 June | King’s Boulevard | King’s Cross N1C | Free

Every Thursday in June, over the course of an hour (12.30pm-1.30pm), 3-4 speakers will each step up to KERB’s ‘crate’ and give their response to the question ‘What is a city for?’

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