Since the start of the games in Rio, two celebrity chefs, together with a robust team they’ve assembled, have been collecting perfectly edible leftovers from the Olympic village that were destined for the trash. The’ve committed to making about 5,000 meals a day for homeless people and other groups in need.
Olympic village is a pretty auspicious spot for collecting foodstuffs. The chefs there are tasked with feeding 18,000 athletes, coaches and officials, and use about 250 tons of raw ingredients for each meal. The program will continue through the Paralympics, which start Sept 7.
The delicious idea was cooked up by famed Italian chef Massimo Bottura. Last year, during Milan’s Universal Exposition, Bottura employed a similar approach to prevent suitable food from the event from ending up in the garbage. He partnered with the Vatican and about 60 acclaimed chefs to launch the Refettorio Amborsiano (Ambrosian Refectory), a dining hall that served leftovers from the Expo to needy people in the city. Bottura and his crew transformed 15 tons of discarded food into delicious dishes and gave them out to homeless people.
During the London Olympics in 2012, one staff member discarded 45 pounds of prawns, 30 pounds of fish fillets, 90 pounds of vegetables, and 45 pounds of meat in a single day. He got together with David Hertz of Brazil who founded a group that empowers people in need by teaching them to cook.
But Bottura initiative isn’t just about rescuing food. It’s about opening up people’s eyes to the world’s global food waste crisis. Up to one third of all food is spoiled or squandered before it’s consumed by people, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
And while Brazil has made some notable gains in reducing its hunger rates, it hasn’t wiped out the issue. In 2014, the country was removed from the U.N.’s hunger map. The number of undernourished Brazilians had fallen by more than 80% in 10 years, the Associated Press reported.
In 1992, there were 23 million people living with hunger. A decade later, that figure dropped to 13 million, according to a report released by FAO.
To get his project off the ground, Bottura had to first convince the Mayor of Rio to provide an empty lot. He then went on to raise $250,000. While donors were generous, the initiative ran over budget and Bottura is now working raise to $190,000, according to The Times. While Bottura may need more funds for the operations, he’s demonstrating how much value can be churned out from what was once considered “garbage.”
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