OzHarvest is the first perishable food rescue organisation in Australia that collects surplus food from more than 2,000 commercial outlets — including restaurants, markets, events, hotels, farmers and more — then delivers it free-of-charge to more than 900 charitable agencies to help feed Australia’s most vulnerable.
Another CEO Cook-Off wraps up
Each year, OzHarvest engages the business world and community at large to help fundraise millions towards food rescue and education. Its annual CEO Cook-Off has just concluded, raising upwards of $1.7 million, enabling OzHarvest to feed more than 3 million vulnerable Australians. “The face of hunger is diverse and it’s never quite who you think,” says CEO, Ronni Kahn. “For one night, CEOs, business leaders and chefs unite to make a positive impact on the lives of those less fortunate. It was truly a night to remember, full of love, humility, dignity and respect. That is the magic of the CEO Cook-Off.”
Inspired to act
OzHarvest was founded by Ronni in November 2004 after she witnessed lots of food going to waste while running her own events company. After growing up in Apartheid South Africa, Ronni had remained conscious of the needless hunger suffered by the underprivileged, so she was inspired to end wasteful habits and create a new system to deliver surplus food to those who need it most.
A first step in her OzHarvest journey was to better enable companies and individuals to donate their surplus food. As previous state legislation held donors liable if donated goods were spoiled, many would-be benefactors had held back for fear of negative repercussions. In 2005, together with pro-bono lawyers, Ronni lobbied state governments to amend the law so that donors would not hold liability, resulting in the passing of the Civil Liabilities Amendment Act in NSW, the ACT, SA and QLD. Since that time, OzHarvest has continued to thrive, operating across the country and delivering more than 60 million meals. For her contribution, Ronni was named Australia’s Local Hero of the Year in 2010.
“My biggest realisation was that, actually, one person can make a huge difference. Therefore, I believe that every business leader has been placed in a role that is much bigger than making that company profitable. It’s about inspiring their staff and driving a more purposeful impact from their business beyond making money. I am a huge believer that leadership is a gift that should never be taken lightly,” says Ronni.
Feed, educate, engage, innovate
With the mission to “nourish the country”, the organisation works to four key pillars starting with its food rescue mission to redistribute quality surplus food to the underprivileged. It also plays a large role in educating and raising awareness about food waste, food security and sustainable eating and cooking practices, while also promoting food nutrition. Through this pillar, OzHarvest runs its ‘Nourish’ program for hospitality training and mentoring for disadvantaged youth.
“When I see the progress of those kids, or hear them tell us that we’ve opened a door that we didn’t know existed or allowed a dream to come true that they didn’t even know they had, that is up there with my greatest joys,” says Ronni. Community engagement is also established through fundraiser BBQs, or ‘OzSizzles’, corporate engagement opportunities like ‘Cooking for a Cause’, and of course its annual CEO Cook-Off.
The company also has a strong focus on innovation with its disruptive and unique operational model and interest in digital technology to further promote or enable the cause. OzHarvest continues to grow, and has recently launched its REAP food rescue program in the UK, even hosting a British CEO Cook-Off event with Jamie Oliver in March 2017. It also now has its yellow vans on the road collecting and delivering surplus food across Thailand, with South Africa and Spain next in line.
OzHarvest key facts
- Company name: OzHarvest
- Founder & CEO: Ronni Kahn
- Headquarters: Sydney, Australia
- Industry: Food rescue / charity