Tackling Food Poverty in the UK with OLIO

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been working with social enterprise OLIO and the N/LAB centre for business analytics at the University of Nottingham, to develop an interactive, data-driven tool that will enable local authorities to find, track and predict areas of food poverty in the UK faster and more accurately.  

The Food Poverty Map will leverage machine learning and real-time proprietary data from OLIO, which is a free app that connects neighbours with each other and volunteers with local businesses so that surplus food can be given away rather than thrown away. It has 2.5 million users who have together shared 7 million portions of food.

“This solves a major problem for councils and local authorities currently fighting food poverty in their area: a lack of up-to-date and representative data,” a statement from OLIO said. The initiative comes as the use of food banks has increased in the UK during the pandemic, although figures were already on the rise before the COVID-19 crisis . Data from food bank provider the Trussell Trust finds that around half of the people who used a food bank at the start of the pandemic had never needed one before. Further, demand for food parcels is forecast to increase by 61 percent this winter compared to last year.

Anne-Charlotte Mornington, Head of Partnerships and Special Projects at OLIO, told Cities Today: “This will change the experience of local authorities in tackling this issue because it will allow them to measure the impact of their work and target their efforts towards areas that need it the most.”

This first phase that we have been involved in is focused on understanding local authority requirements, building a prototype and creating a business case all to be submitted in December as part of an Innovate UK grant. If successful, OLIO hopes to access further budget to bring this to market and scale across the UK in 2021.  

We’re so thrilled to be involved in such a truly impactful project, alongside our digital development friends over at The Boffin Lab. This is exactly the kind of work we set up Element to deliver.

If you’re a council or local authority who could collaborate in the next phase or just wants to learn more, please let us know, we’d love to speak to you. Get in touch at hello@weareelement.com.

See the Cities Today article here.