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Olympic Chefs Pledge to Salvage Unused Food and Feed the Hungry With It

The world wastes so much food that could be repurposed and used to feed people.

Some of the big-name chefs cooking for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are also activists for the hungry. Knowing full well there will be tremendous food waste at that massive event, the chefs plan to salvage as much as they can. With it, every night of the games, they will feed the hungry.

Each day, the food preparation staff for the Olympics will have to feed an incredible 60,000 meals to 18,000 athletes, coaches and other personnel. To do that, they need a specially built kitchen that will be as big as a football field. A whopping 460,000 lbs of food will be delivered every day. Meals will be prepared and served as Brazilian, Asian, Halal, Kosher, International and Pasta/Pizza buffets.

When each day concludes, invariably there will be a lot of leftovers. Instead of throwing it all away, chefs Massimo Bottura and David Hertz came up with a better idea. They believe they’ll end up with about 12 tons of surplus food over the course of two weeks. They’re going to use all that food to prepare 100 free meals a night for the nearby hungry.

Bottura and Hertz are world class chefs on a mission. Even before the 2016 Olympic Games, both sought ways to minimize food waste and feed the needy. In 2006, Hertz founded Gastromotiva, an organization that provides vocational kitchen training throughout Brazil and Latin America.

Among Gastromotiva’s guiding principles are the goals of improving health and well-being by means of food safety and gastronomy as well as mobilizing society on issues of social responsibility through gastronomy.

Massimo Bottura owns the Italian restaurant currently sitting at number two on the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants — Osteria Francescana, a three Michelin star restaurant. Asserting that “cooking is a call to act,” Bottura needed to do more. He therefore founded the non-profit Food For Soul.

Its aim is to promote social awareness about food waste and hunger by collaborating with chefs, artisans, food suppliers, artists, designers and institutions on a wide range of initiatives. Among its projects, Food for Soul has opened soup kitchens associated with major events like ExpoMilan 2015 to do exactly what will happen at the 2016 Olympic Games — feed the hungry with food that would otherwise go to waste.

Watch Bottura discuss his Food for Soul initiative in this video:

Clearly, Hertz and Bottura can’t use the athletes’ dining areas for this purpose. Instead, the city of Rio took over an empty store on the Rua da Lapa and turned it into a community soup kitchen. The newly named ‎RefettoRio Gastromotiva will feed the needy during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and then remain in place as a community center helping locals with food-related programs and classes.

This marvelous plan is a step in the right direction. The world wastes so much food that could be repurposed and used to feed people. Food is a precious resource, yet worldwide we waste an astounding 1.3 billion tons a year. In a world with 795 million undernourished people, that level of waste needs to stop.

These chefs will already have so much to do at the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and yet they insist on adding this terrific initiative to their busy days. That’s dedication to a cause. We need more activists like this in the world. Let these fine gentlemen inspire you. Volunteer somewhere and find out if you’re an activist at heart. Get out there and do good for others.

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