Hey Nicola. Thanks for chatting today! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hey, my name is Nicola. I’m a final year student at the University of Manchester. I study Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. I’m Nigerian and British. I like anime and I’m a Christian!

You’re involved in a food waste initiative. Can you tell us more about that?

I’m involved in a food waste initiative called Olio. It’s an app fighting food waste. It allows users to collect food that would’ve been chucked away! I’m a distributor, so I collect food from cafés and then people come to my house to collect the food.

Why did you get involved?

I don’t remember how I found out about the app, but last summer as the term was drawing to a close, I was broke. I thought ‘I’ll just google ways to get free food’. Olio came up and I read more. I used the app for the first time to pick up food from someone in Manchester. I got a big bag of rice!

As students were leaving the city for the summer holidays lots of people were using the app to give food away that was going to be thrown. It was a 10kg bag of rice they weren’t going to use! I shared that bag of rice with my old housemates, and it took us months to get through! It’s crazy to think that rice was going to be wasted otherwise. Think of how much food is thrown at the end of term by the thousands of students moving house or heading home for the holidays! So I initially got involved to save money.

So as you’ve gotten more involved, I guess you’ve learnt more about food waste. Why does the issue of food waste matter to you?

I think food waste matters to me way more now that I’ve been educated as an Olio distributor. I’ve learnt how pressing the issue is. When I do collections from restaurants I see how much food would go in the bins if I wasn’t there to collect it. Imagine all the food that is thrown each day by all the restaurants who don’t give food away. That’s a lot of food not making it onto our plates. [It’s] like, wonky veg that supermarkets won’t sell because it’s not aesthetically pleasing. The scale of the problem is crazy to think about.

Then I think about people in developing countries where there are people starving, and people who are being forced to eat awful things. We’ve all seen pictures and videos of people searching for food in landfills or pulling stuff out of bins. Why are people having to eat food like that? Why are there people dying from malnutrition if there’s more than enough food in the world?

There’s 1.9 million tonnes of food wasted by the food industry every year in the UK.

FareShare say that around 8.4 million people in the UK are struggling to afford to eat. There’s so much destruction to rear animals and cultivate food and it’s just going to waste. Excess isn’t helping anybody. We’re destroying our planet.

You mentioned how poorly we’ve stewarded the world’s resources. So, how does your faith impact your view of taking action?

I want to be a giver like Christ. He cares for my every need. The Bible says that we should be imitators of God. I want to make God happy and follow his call. Volunteering is God giving me another gift! He is giving me the ability to bless other people. He’s given me the ability to do good. So for me, joining in the fight against food waste, is a way for me to bless others in light of how Christ has blessed me.

Do you have any tips to prevent or reduce food waste in our lives?

Firstly, buy less. Think about what you need to buy. It may sound obvious, but having a shopping list or planning out meals means you won’t buy too much. Also, don’t overfill your fridge because then you can’t see the things at the back. That food is only going to go off. Make sure you can see what you’ve bought to avoid chucking food in the bin. Be careful with expiry dates but also use your common sense and only throw what is not edible.

You could also download Olio (there are other apps too) and start collecting food waste from your community! We can be asking local cafés and restaurants to get involved too, maybe they could sign up to be a food waste donator on the app. Another good tip is to share food you don’t want anymore. Say you have food left at the end of term or too much cake after a birthday, you could ask your neighbours, or give it out to a homeless person. It really doesn’t need to go in the bin! Also, when you eat out don’t be afraid to take a doggy bag of leftovers. I’ve learnt not to be bothered by other people’s opinions when it comes to food. Do you! Finish your meal or take the leftovers home. Finally, don’t shop hungry, you’ll just make dumb purchases.