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The queen of food waste management

I’m sitting in Bean Around the World waiting for Elis when a scooter pulls over - a tall woman with long curly hair jumps off and flounces into the café – Elis has arrived. She’s loud, confident and could rival me at words per minute. She instantly apologises as she has a quick chat with the manager, they are the latest business to sign up to the OLIO revolution.

OLIO is a food sharing app which allows businesses and individuals to post surplus food that can be collected for free, rather than thrown away. OLIO was founded in the UK by friends Saasha and Tessa in February 2015. To begin with the app was only available in London, but it has now allowed food to be shared in over 40 countries. The app is super easy to use too – to make an item available, simply open the app, add a photo, description, and when and where the item is available for pick-up. To access items, simply browse the listings available near you, request whatever takes your fancy and arrange a pick-up via private messaging.

Bringing OLIO to Jersey

Elis Joudalova, originally from Czech Republic, has always been a big environmentalist and a massive foodie, which she thanks her upbringing for.

“We always grew our own fruit and vegetables; my mum is an amazing cook, so we always ate fresh meals. People make their own food, there aren’t ready meals, packaged goods or pre-cut onions” she laughs “even the shops – charging for bags, schemes on bottles, loose produce – this isn’t new for me, it’s the way we grew up.”

Elis says when she moved to the UK, she was horrified by the food waste issue and the lack of interest to do anything about it. “When I first moved to Jersey we would go food shopping at the end of the day, and I was surprised at the amount of food that was reduced to just pennies – I asked the staff in various supermarkets if they get to take the leftover reduced produce home, and I was surprised to learn that they didn't, in fact, it all went in the bin, even though they were still in great condition.”

Elis, already a follower of various movements and pages on sustainability and food waste, came across OLIO when researching new developments and progress and immediately knew that was what was needed in Jersey to help solve the problem. After contacting the founders, she became a representative in Jersey in May 2017 and now heads the OLIO community in the Channel Islands.

“To begin with it was just me. I started emailing and contacting shop managers and owners and they all had the same response - they were just as passionate as I was about reducing waste and agreed to give me their leftover food at the end of the day. I had a full-time job too, I would collect the food in the morning and on lunch, post it on the app, share it on Facebook and arrange collections in the evenings – it was non-stop for weeks.”

Within a couple of months Elis had gone from a one-(wo)man band to having friends and colleagues help with collections and postings. Soon, those who were requesting the food took an interest in volunteering as well, expanding the OLIO Jersey team even further. Even though it was a voluntary role, Elis knew that she had found her true passion and quit her full-time day job in August 2017.

“My friends and family were telling me I was crazy, but I just knew I had to. This is what I want to do, I want to do something that makes a change or at least makes a difference. There isn’t anything I’ve loved more in my life than this and I just thought ‘well if it doesn’t work, I’ll get another job’.”

OLIO Jersey 18 months later

As of October 2018, the stats are pretty impressive. Elis tells me that the OLIO Jersey app has over 7300 local users. The team have worked with over 40 businesses, including restaurants, cafés, shops, farmers and even wholesalers.

OLIO Jersey is more than just a local food sharing app too, it’s a community where people meet and make friends for life.

“We have 53 volunteers who help collect the food and post on the app – we have become like one big family. Some of the volunteers have previously suffered with depression or have had major events affect their lives, they tell me that OLIO had helped them achieve a sense of purpose. Not everybody is on Facebook or knows how to use modern technology but could benefit from the service, so some of the volunteers have regular people they deliver food to each week that would have otherwise missed out.”

On average about 1250 food items a week are donated to OLIO Jersey, which works out at about half a tonne of surplus food. Often large quantities are donated to charities who can make use of the bulk remains.

“Recently we had 250 bags of stir fry vegetables from one shop – it wasn’t their fault though, they were accidentally sent extra crates from the UK and they couldn’t be sent back. We also donated 17 bags of bananas to one charity who managed to make banana breads, smoothies and freeze the rest for future use.”

Events and education

Elis is very passionate about education – she has attended many talks and programmes in schools and workplaces. "Jersey Youth Service ran a week-long programme for Cooking Skills for young adults which I attended with two volunteers. We brought surplus food and created a cooking challenge with ‘food waste’ as well as talking about the issues. I was also a coach on the ‘Big Idea’ panel for JCG’s Leap 2018 programme (Leadership and Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme)."

In September, OLIO Jersey hosted a coffee and cake morning at Beresford Street Kitchen, using as many surplus ingredients as possible, with all monies raised going directly to Macmillan Cancer Support Jersey.

“I love working with as many charities as I can. Events like these not only teach people about food waste, but also help others. To be a truly sustainable, resilient, healthy and thriving community we need to collaborate and work together. I’m also looking at how I can arrange a Disco Soup event in Jersey – that would be incredible!”

(Disco Soup started in Berlin as a food waste protest that fed over 8000 people. On World Disco Soup Day, organisers, attendees and chefs will collect, chop, and cook leftover food or any food that would otherwise go to waste. During the preparations, and for a long while after, music will be pumping, and everyone will be dancing. It is a fun, gastronomic and musical event that brings together young people, students, children, seniors, cooks and all the supporters of this battle against food waste. It is also a transformation tool that brings together diverse knowledge for education and awareness.)

How you can help

When we talk about food waste, it’s the supermarket chains that come to mind, but actually in the UK (including Jersey and Guernsey) we waste about 40% of food and meals in our homes. Globally, a third of the food produced and grown is thrown away. To put it into perspective, stats have revealed that in the UK alone 24 million slices of bread are binned every day.

“People buy products and aren’t sure what to do with them, or they have set meal plans and bin the leftovers. In reality all people need to do is google their leftover ingredients and see what they can make – stews, soups, casseroles etc., these are all dishes that can be made with leftovers. People are also surprised when they learn that 90% of food can be frozen, including items like milk and orange juice. I urge people to stop being scared to try new things! Every one of us can make a difference with regards to food waste, OLIO and I are here to help you make those small steps towards big changes.”

Due to the success of OLIO Jersey, Elis has recently launched OLIO in Guernsey. Download the OLIO app and keep up to date via the Facebook page, Jersey OLIO Community.



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