• Food waste, like these bananas, ends up in landfill, harming the environment by creating greenhouse gas emissions. (Mint Pictures)
In only 14 years, Ronni Kahn has taken OzHarvest from a small Sydney charity to an international organisation across five continents, and she shows no signs of slowing down soon. A new documentary, Food Fighter, follows her crusade against food waste. #WorldEnvironmentDay
By
Yasmin Noone

30 May 2018 - 3:25 PM  UPDATED 30 May 2018 - 4:42 PM

Did you ever stop and think that cooking too much roast chicken for your family’s dinner and throwing it straight into the garbage bin might constitute a violation of someone’s human right to be fed?

Australian social entrepreneur and founder of OzHarvest, Ronni Kahn has, many a time. “Food waste, I think, is an appalling violation,” she says. “So much energy, fuel, water and labour goes into producing food. Yet we know that two billion people suffer from food insecurity globally.”

Kahn doesn’t just interpret food waste as a household accident to be momentarily shrugged at. This is because food waste contributes to poverty, the persistence of social inequity and environmental degradation.

The Australian government estimates that food waste costs the domestic economy around $20 million a year. OzHarvest figures detail that four million tonnes of edible food is discarded in Australia every year. Meanwhile, two million Australians suffer from food insecurity.

"The film became a character study into what type of person it takes to effect such change on a global level."

Kahn explains that food waste ends up in landfill, harming the environment by creating greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s inhumane and a huge violation to be throwing away perfectly good food,” she says. 

It’s Kahn’s holistic take of the problem of food waste that has seen OzHarvest grow from being a small Aussie charity to an international organisation in the 14 years since its creation. International arms of OzHarvest are now operational in New Zealand, South Africa and the UK while the Australian non-profit also partners with food rescue organisations in Peru and Italy.

“My universal truth is that every single person, it doesn’t matter what country they come from, at some point in their life has been told ‘eat your food because there is someone hungry somewhere. I didn’t have to teach anybody that. That’s been the beauty [behind people’s acceptance] of OzHarvest.”

Kahn’s unique dogged character and meaningful work at OzHarvest has led to the creation of a new documentary, Food Fighter, screening as part of the Human Rights Film Festival on May 30 in Canberra. The feature-length documentary, filmed over two years and across four continents, will officially premiere at Sydney’s State Theatre on Sunday 3 June.

"Ronni will call up the prime minister in the same way she would go up to someone on the street. She is a crusader."

Through the film, viewers witness Kahn’s food waste crusade as she partners with the United Nations in Bangkok, rubs shoulders with British royalty and Jamie Oliver’s juggernaut in London, and holds governments to account in Australia.

“The film was originally supposed to be a film about food waste in Australia with Ronni as its key protagonist,” says director of <em">Food Fighter, Dan Goldberg from Mint Pictures. “But in the end, although it was a film about food waste, it became a character study into what type of person it takes to effect such change on a global level.”

Goldberg sums up Kahn’s inspirational character with a description of her included in the film: “she simply will not be defeated”. “That drives a lot of people crazy but it also gets things done,” he says. “Ronni will call up the prime minister in the same way she would go up to someone on the street. She is a crusader. If she wasn’t Jewish, I’d call her an evangelist.”

Goldberg, who is also of a Jewish background, explains the natural synergy between Judaism and food in an attempt to describe Kahn’s activism.

“We have a big problem. We need to solve it and until we get there, my work is still cut out for me.”

“Food in our culture is very poignant because of the 2,000 years of persecution where food was not abundant. But we now live in an age of abundance. So food is a blessing. But when you see people without it, it’s difficult to be a bystander.”

Kahn agrees that although she’s accomplished a lot, her food waste mission is far from over.

“I didn’t start Ozharvest [with an aim to grow it] to be the biggest food rescue organisation in the world,” Kahn says. “I thought ‘I will just do this for a bit until I fix the problem.’ I didn’t realise the scale of the problem when I started.

“We have a big problem. We need to solve it and until we get there, my work is still cut out for me.”

 

Food Fighter will be officially released in Australian cinemas during the week of World Environment Day, premiering at the State Theatre in Sydney on June 3, 2018  and screening at select cinemas from June 7-20.

 

Zero waste
Teaching children food ethics starts with eating their broccoli
The response from a young Helen Razer: "Feed the world my broccoli." But can we eat and consume our way into a better, fairer world?
Home biogas: turning food waste into renewable energy
Could this new cooking method be any more sustainable? It's powered by organic waste and generates zero net greenhouse emissions.
Wasted! The Story of Food Waste
See how the world's most influential chefs make the most of every kind of food, transforming what most people consider food scraps into dishes.
Do we really need packaged fruit and vegetables?
Already bring a bag and buy ugly fruit and veg? Here are other simple ways to cut down your carbon footprint at the supermarket.
Australia’s first ‘rescued food’ supermarket opens today
Reducing food waste and supporting the community, The OzHarvest Market operates on a ‘take what you need, give if you can’ model. Win-win, really.