Jennifer Aaron

Harvesting Waste

Harvesting Waste

Australian homes and businesses throw away four million tonnes of perfectly good food every year, simply because they have more than they need.

In 2004 ,Sydney based event planner Ronni Kahn had spent a decade witnessing first hand how much food was thrown away at the end of corporate functions. Inspired to take action, she tapped into her long held belief that one person was capable of making a difference to the world and starting what I feel is one of the most significant movements of our time.

Ronni says she will never forget driving down the back lane to the loading dock of a health food store in Bondi Junction to collect her first pick up of surplus produce and getting the sense that this was so logical, so obvious and so right to be saving this good food, and she remembers her excitement when she dropped it off as a gift from the new service on the block. OzHarvest.

That is when she knew that OzHarvest was going to make a difference to the lives of so many vulnerable people.

“Ultimately, impacting and making a difference to one person’s life is the most important thing one can do in this life.”

I first met Ronnie many years ago and was immediately inspired by her passion, her sense of purpose, her determination to make a difference and her wonderful sense of humour.

Born in South Africa, Ronni is a woman of considerable talent and experience.She spent 20 years of her life living in a Kibbutz in Israel, and founded OzHarvest as a way of stemming the tide of food waste. Her first step was to successfully lobby state governments, inciting them to change civil liability regulations and allow surplus food to be donated to those in need.

She says that one of the biggest hurdles she faced when OzHarvest first started was the fear businesses had of being prosecuted for supplying us with food. This seemed incredibly narrow-minded to her – so much of the food being thrown away was of a very high quality, she realised that she needed to lobby to achieve a change in the NSW Civil Liability Act.

From small beginnings, OzHarvest has grown into a major operation. Under the supervision of the irrepressible Ronni, it now collects food from wholesalers, catering companies, corporate events and restaurants, delivering it free of charge to more than 800 charity outlets on the east coast of Australia.

• Businesses don’t have to pay for the disposal of perfectly good victuals
• Charities are saved the cost of sourcing supplies and the work of preparing meals
• The homeless and those in crisis are spared the desperation of needing something to eat.

For Ronni, her immense team of volunteers and her regular financial supporters, the reward is

“feeling nurtured, nourished and fulfilled because you’re doing something for somebody else.”

Since its beginnings 12 years ago, OzHarvest has collected over 15,000 tonnes of food and distributed an amazing 45 million meals and counting. Ronni and OzHarvest have inspired the creation of several similar charities, such as the WA based Food Rescue and Victoria’s FoodBank, and who are collectively responsible for recovering over 1 billion tonnes of food waste each year.

In recognition for her hard work, Ronni was named Australia’s Local Hero in 2010. This unstoppable woman continues to expand her altruistic mission, reaching out to those in regional areas and constantly looking to engage and innovate to combat food waste and hunger.

Ronnie now focuses on educating the entire community to acknowledge and tackle this problem. Her ultimate vision for OzHarvest is to eliminate hunger and food waste – both man made problems that she knows can be addressed if everyone works together. She says that if, in the next ten years, we can work collaboratively with industry, individuals and government to halve food waste by 50%, by 2025, then we are heading in the right direction.

Ronni’s inspiring story certainly is food for thought. To find out more about OzHarvest and how you can be involved, visit


*Images courtesy of OzHarvest, with thanks.

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