Here's the problem: Globally, around one-third of all food that is produced is wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations. Large quantities of this food waste are fit for human consumption, but become surplus due to packaging damage, short shelf-life, or qualities that are considered "imperfect." So how can we improve food security and sustainability of food systems?

Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons

Here's how one organization is working on the problem: Having identified the mismatch between organizations with surplus food and organizations that provide for people experiencing food poverty, Dublin-based, FoodCloud developed a "smart-simple" app to facilitate a mutually beneficial exchange of food that can be scaled. Using a custom-built technology platform, participating businesses post details of their surplus food and identify a time period for its collection. This posting triggers an automated text message to participating charities in the area that can indicate that they would like to pick up the food.

Recognizing the challenges that charities face in picking up food late at night — the time when businesses often identify their surplus food — FoodCloud has also introduced a food rescue team of volunteers in Dublin, Ireland, who use a donated electric vehicle to facilitate pickup and drop-offs between businesses and charities.


  • In 2014, FoodCloud announced a partnership with supermarket chain Tesco to roll out its app across 146 stores in Ireland.
  • More than 12,074,197 meals have been distributed in the U.K. and Ireland, according to the organization. This figure quantifies the sustainability benefits of the redistribution of food through FoodCloud, but there are also qualitative ones.
  • While they are obviously beneficial for the businesses and charities involved, operations like FoodCloud also offer opportunities for community capacity building through volunteering options/openings/positions.

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This case study is adapted from our latest book, "Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons." Get a copy today.

Header image of Aoibheann with a donation basket from Tesco in Ringsend, Dublin, and Iseult displays the company’s phone app by Dave Meehan.
Anna Davies


Anna Davies

Anna Davies is Professor of Geography, Environment and Society at Trinity College Dublin where she directs the Environmental Governance Research Group, is a lead in the