Article appeared in issue 5, 2020

FoodCloud

FoodCloud is a non-profit social enterprise launched to address the issue of food waste. Co-founder and CEO Iseult Ward explains how the operation works and shares some of its impressive achievements to date

FoodCloud creates solutions to redistribute surplus food to local communities, reducing the environmental impact of food waste and the social impact of food insecurity. Founded in 2013 by Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien, FoodCloud has created two food redistribution solutions that tackle the enormous issue of food waste, providing an environmentally sensitive, socially responsible, and economically viable alternative to throwing away perfectly good food.

 

Two-pronged approach

In Ireland, FoodCloud redistributes surplus food to a network of over 600 charities across the country. It uses technology to connect over 500 supermarkets with surplus food, directly to local charities. The donation-management system allows retailers to upload details of surplus food to the platform and local charities are notified and can collect it on a daily basis. Our hubs solution enables us to redistribute large quantities of surplus food from the supply chain via our warehouse to our network of charities all over Ireland.

 

Ireland and beyond

Since 2014, FoodCloud’s technology has enabled a community of over 9,500 charities across Ireland and the UK to access good food and create long-lasting local relationships: tackling the problem of food waste while creating opportunities to increase social inclusion. We have helped to ensure that over 90 million meals have gone to people and not to waste across Ireland and the UK. That is the equivalent of over 37,799 tonnes of food redistributed. Preventing this surplus food going to landfill resulted in the avoidance of approximately 120,958 tonnes of CO2- equivalent emissions.

To date, in Ireland, we have redistributed over 10,000 tonnes of surplus food to our charity partners, the equivalent of over 25 million meals. In the UK, FoodCloud works in partnership with Food Redistribution NGO FareShare, to connect over 2,900 stores directly with local charities across the country. 

The FoodCloud technology is now also being used across multiple food banks worldwide including Australia, Poland and the Czech Republic. FoodCloud is currently working with Tesco Central Europe across Poland, in Czech Republic and Slovakia. The international partnerships team at FoodCloud are keen to continue this growth globally and enable food redistribution with future food banking and retail partners.

 

Partners in business  

FoodCloud works with a number of food businesses across the supply chain including retailers, distributors, growers and manufacturers to help them to redistribute their surplus food to our network of community groups and the individuals they support. Through our two solutions, we support food businesses across Ireland in making the redistribution of surplus food straightforward and streamlined, and so far this year we have redistributed food on behalf of over 150 food businesses.

Surplus food redistribution is a win-win solution for people and our planet, and offers an opportunity to build a better, more sustainable and food-secure future for us all. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of food-recovery organisations as essential social safety nets for mitigating food insecurity around the world. By donating their surplus food to FoodCloud, food businesses are helping us to work towards our vision of a world where no good food goes to waste, while also working towards Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of halving global food waste by 2030. 

 

Changing attitudes 

We recently conducted research among 1,000 adults in Ireland around the attitudes on food waste and were pleased to find that eight in 10 adults consider reducing food waste very important when it comes to their household, and 66% feel they will do more around reducing food waste in the future.

Overall the research highlights the increasing recognition of the problem of food waste and the positive impact that reducing food waste can have on our environment. In future, we hope to see this momentum continue, and with the support from our partners at AIB, we are focusing on reaching more people nationally by spreading awareness about the impact of food waste on our environment through social media, empowering individuals to play their part in tackling this problem, either at home or within a food business.

In Ireland, we waste one million tonnes of food every year and the climate emergency is becoming more clear by the day. The awareness of the impact we all have on the planet has never been greater and we are finding that food businesses in Ireland are really focusing on their environmental impact as well as how they can work to support their local communities further. 

We have had tremendous support from our existing partners through this challenging time and we have had a number of new partners reach out in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to see how they could support FoodCloud. Our food team is always available to discuss options with any food partners that would like to come on board to help us in meeting the increased demand for food that we have experienced from our charity partners due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The gleaning initiative 

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested, or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. FoodCloud has run successful gleaning projects since 2017 and we have partnered with Meade Potato Company and BallyMakenny Farm to glean a range of crops such as potatoes, onions, carrots and broccoli by hand with our volunteers. We also support the work of Falling Fruit Ireland that harvests the seasonal glut of apples, pears, plums, nuts and other fruits, that would otherwise not be picked, and directs it to charities. 

We work with our gleaning partners to find suitable dates and locations on commercial farms for picking the surplus vegetables, as well as recruiting volunteers and ensuring that all the gleaned food goes to local charities who will use it. The gleaning period usually runs from August to October and is a great activity for large teams and corporate team-building days for those who want a break from the office.