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Ronni Kahn AO

Ronni Kahn AO (Image by Mark Bond Photography)
Ronni Kahn AO (Image by Mark Bond Photography)

At Inside Gold Coast, it’s no secret we love our food. So it’s only fitting we acknowledge World Food Day on Saturday 16th October. And no doubt when you think ‘food’, you think of a nice meal at a restaurant or a lovingly cooked meal at home. But have you ever stopped to consider the food wastage that is caused from preparing your dish at a restaurant or those vegetables you have in your fridge you keep telling yourself you’ll use? Stats show that we Aussies waste a staggering 7.6 million tonnes of food each year – with 70% of this being perfectly edible. Enter OzHarvest, a food rescue organisation here to save good food ending up in landfill. So we got to know the woman who is the Founder and CEO of this amazing organisation. Read on to get to know Ronni Kahn AO.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Ronni Kahn, OzHarvest Founder and CEO. I grew up in South Africa, before moving to Israel, then finally to Australia. I never set out to start a charity, I just started out trying to fix a problem!  As the owner of an events business, I often found myself with huge amounts of good food going to waste and I knew how many people were hungry. One day, I put that food in the back of my car and delivered it to a local charity, from there OzHarvest was born!

OzHarvest Food Rescue delivery to charity agency (image supplied)
OzHarvest Food Rescue delivery to charity agency (image supplied)

For those who don’t know, what is OzHarvest?
OzHarvest is Australia’s leading food rescue organisation with a driving purpose to ‘Nourish our Country.’ We started 17 years ago in Sydney with one van and now operate across the country and to date, have saved over 65,000 tonnes of food from ending up in landfill, delivering more than 190 million meals to those who need it most. As a for-impact organisation, we also run a range of education programs to create positive change and are constantly looking for innovative ways to tackle food waste and address food insecurity.
On the Gold Coast, our fleet of four vehicles support more than 60 charities every week, rescuing food from 100 local businesses across the hinterland and down to the Northern NSW Coast. In just seven years, OzHarvest Gold Coast has delivered more than 9.5 million meals, getting good food to families and individuals experiencing food insecurity. The impact of bushfires, drought and COVID-19 has seen demand for food relief increased dramatically in communities across the country.

OzHarvest Gold Coast (image supplied)
OzHarvest Gold Coast (image supplied)

What does a typical day being OzHarvest’s CEO/founder look like?
Every day is different, but always busy! The impact of Covid has obviously changed how we’re working, and I am mainly based at home. I always start the day early – with some yoga and meditation or a brisk walk, before starting my workday with a Management Team Zoom. My diary is full of meetings and phone calls, with stakeholders, partners, prospective funders, government departments etc. I sit on various committees and am still doing quite a few speaking engagements (albeit virtually!). Since March last year, OzHarvest has been classified as a frontline emergency service, so I do go to the office if needed, mainly for media interviews or key meetings.

Do you have a favourite memory/moment that comes to mind since the inception of OzHarvest?
I have so many! From the first time a yellow van delivered rescued food to hungry people to the graduation ceremonies of our Nourish students. I’m always blown away by the stories of how OzHarvest has impacted people’s lives in such different ways. A parent told me that after leaving and dropping out of many schools, their son had finally found an educational opportunity through the Nourish program, which restored his hope and self-confidence. To see a young person reach their potential, knowing that we have helped in some way to make that happen, is an incredibly special moment.

OzHarvest Gold Coast team at IHG (image supplied)
OzHarvest Gold Coast team at IHG (image supplied)

What has OzHarvest’s impact been like here on the Gold Coast?
The team on the Gold Coast has been extremely busy as demand for food has increased dramatically, we’re now delivering around 30,000 meals a week. Thanks to philanthropic support, we were able to add a fourth yellow van, which has enabled us to increase our service to include Tweed Heads to Cabarita, an area particularly hard hit by border closures and tourism downturn. I was lucky enough to join the Gold Coast team earlier in the year to celebrate their 9 million meal milestone and meet some of the wonderful supporters and charities that we work with in the region.

OzHarvest Gold Coast (image supplied)
OzHarvest Gold Coast (image supplied)

What can we expect from OzHarvest in the next 12 months?
Food security is a big issue, which OzHarvest is collaborating with other organisations in the sector to ensure it’s being addressed as a national priority. We are also committed to halving food waste by 2030 in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and know the immense scale of change required to achieve this. We are working with Government, businesses and stakeholders to achieve this goal and have just launched a new campaign to inspire people at home to tackle food waste.
Education is a huge focus for OzHarvest and we will continue to grow our three programs – Nourish, NEST and FEAST. Our curriculum-aligned program for primary schools – FEAST – is now in 400 primary schools across the country inspiring future change-makers! We will be piloting a version for high schools, which will hopefully launch next year… watch this space.
I am also hugely excited about our new social impact collaboration with world-famous chef Massimo Bottura and his charity Food for Soul – Refettorio OzHarvest Sydney. This will be a unique dining experience in the heart of Sydney, where vulnerable people can enjoy a free nourishing meal, served with dignity and respect.  Whilst Covid restrictions have delayed this project, we hope to open the doors early next year.

Ronni Kahn AO (middle) (Image by Nikki To)
Ronni Kahn AO (middle) (Image by Nikki To)

What can we all do to help fight food waste?
People are always surprised when they learn the number one thing they can do to tackle climate action is to reduce food at home! OzHarvest has been fighting food waste for 17 years, but to revolutionise behaviour at home, we teamed up with BehaviourWorks Australia to understand the most impactful way households can reduce their waste. The overwhelming answer was to Use It Up – a simple behaviour that can save food, save money and save the planet! To get the nation on board, we’ve developed the Use It Up tape, a world-first product that makes it easy and fun to see what food needs using up in your fridge or pantry, which can then be transformed into your next meal! Check out the Oz Harvest website for more information and to order the Use It Up tape.

How can people support OzHarvest?
It’s easy to support our work with a simple donation, as just $1 means we can deliver two meals to people in need.
In the local Gold Coast area, we’d love businesses to get involved by hosting a fundraiser, or booking our wonderful team engagement program – Cooking for a Cause – it’s a great idea for Christmas party activity to get the team creating delicious food that goes directly to feed local communities in need.

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