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UK supermarket Co-op partners with Microsoft to tackle food waste

Every year, around 1.1 million metric tons of food go to waste across the UK's food retail and hospitality industries. British supermarket Co-op is now partnering with Microsoft to create a not-for-profit digital platform that makes it easier to connect supermarkets and restaurants with community groups that can help distribute surplus food to those who need it.

Their new initiative is Caboodle, which enables fast and flexible scheduling of food pick-ups by charities and volunteers. While other systems require food-savers to log on daily to book slots, Caboodle allows for indefinite booking ahead of time, with the ability to skip days or weeks if demand is low. Live notifications alert groups when more slots are available, and they'll also be able to recruit volunteers through the platform's digital noticeboard.

Currently, Co-op stores in 100 Northern Ireland, Milton Keynes and London are piloting Caboodle, with another 2,500 food stores to join next month. While Co-op is kicking off, the system was created to be accessible to all food retailers, restaurants and cafés.

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Food waste is where inequality and the climate crisis merge, and Caboodle isn't the first platform to work on a solution. According to Estelle Herszenhorn, food lead at climate action non-profit WRAP, "Surplus food redistribution has been a success story over recent years. 320,000 metric tons of food were saved from going to waste between 2015 and 2020, worth GBP 1 billion, and providing the equivalent of 220 million meals. But much more good food is still going to waste that could feed people."

WRAP estimates that another 200,000 tons could be rescued annually, which is where Caboodle comes in. Built using Microsoft's low-code Power Platform technology, the platform is designed to easily adapt to the needs of community groups and volunteers who distribute surplus food.