Ronni Kahn is a pioneer in creating a feasible solution to Australia’s food waste problem. Through the creation of food rescue operation OzHarvest, she has not only raised awareness about excessive waste in our businesses and homes, but has actively implemented workable strategies to divert this needless waste into the hands and mouths of some of the most needy in our community.
Without any Government funding, OzHarvest relies on a range of sponsors, a driven core team and the dedication of long-term volunteers to achieve waste reduction goals that are founded upon the understanding that humans are intrinsically connected to each other and the environment, rather than regarding these as two separate issues which is often the failure of single-focus initiatives.
Kim: OzHarvest has some impressive stats- diverting over 125 tonnes of food from landfill every month is just the tip of the iceberg. Most businesses could only hope to be as effective in achieving their goals; to what do you attribute these successes?
Ronni: Our impact is driven by the fact that we are simple, effective and attractive to all genders, all ages and what we do just makes sense. Nobody was rescuing food before we started; there was not the awareness around food waste, which we created, so we are very attractive! Our value proposition and transparency of every $1 that we raise being able to deliver at least one meal to someone in need makes us a “no brainer”.
K: The main goal of OzHarvest is to deliver excess food from businesses and deliver it to needy charities. On top of this you’ve also implemented may other initiatives, including a cookbook, rural food rescue education, and the annual CEO Cookoff. Where do you see these initiatives continuing or developing into the future?
R: Our purpose is “Nourishing our Country” so under that banner it is incumbent on us to nourish every aspect of a good life to create well-being. This means we educate around food waste, healthy eating, nutrition and hope to provide life skills for real transformation.
K: You’ve been running for 9 years now; what were some of the challenges you faced in that first year of operation? Did you ever have doubts about getting the idea off the ground?
R: I never had any doubts about the success of OzHarvest- maybe it was naiveté but it just did not occur to me that if I set out to do this, and if I did it “right” that it would fail. Any of the obstacles were challenges. I recognised that it would be helpful and make it much easier if we had the law behind us to make to the donation of food legal, so found pro bono lawyers to help lobby to have the law amended to allow good food to be collected for free without fear of liability, initially in NSW, then ACT, QLD and SA.
K: You were in event production for 20 years before founding OzHarvest, so you must have seen some pretty excessive waste, particularly in terms of perishables and one-use items. Apart from donating to needy charities through OzHarvest, how would you like to see this industry (and others) develop in terms of reducing excessive waste?
R: The food industry as well as individuals must take responsibility for the state of our surplus food.
Individuals can buy local, can buy fruit with a freckle and crooked carrots- thousands of crooked carrots are rejected by the giant supermarket chains because they do not sit evenly on the shelf.
We should buy what we need, when we need it rather than buying up big in advance, 2 for I deals make us waste more and we often only needed one lettuce, but buy two because it’s on offer, only to throw it away a few days later.
$7.8 billion worth of food goes to waste every year.
K: What advice would you give to other potential entrepreneurs, who are looking to make the big leap into a new career?
R: What are you waiting for???
We only have today, so be courageous and bold – follow your passion – let your head and your heart guide you! Ask advice, get mentored, use your existing skills, and make sure that it is useful and meaningful to society, community and your country.
To find out more, visit http://www.ozharvest.org/