Ronni Kahn

Jul 15, 2018 | Do Gooders

Since starting OzHarvest with one food rescue van in 2004, Ronni Kahn has gone on to champion the fight against food waste globally.

She is the epitome of humility and grace in her tireless work to provide dignity, full tummies and a smile to people in need.

We first met Ronni at a talk where she was inspiring business women to make a difference in their future careers. Her personal stories ensured there was not a dry eye in the house.

Afterwards we had what turned out to be a life-changing chat. We weren’t quite sure where our journey was taking us, but we were inspired and Ronni’s kind words and warm cuddle fuelled our motivation to give it a go.

So we are thrilled to launch our first Do Good(for the hood)er interview with Ronni. 

Where’s your ‘hood?

That’s a good question!  I’ve had many ‘hoods’ from growing up in South Africa, living in Israel and Australia has been home now for 30years.  My ‘hood is beautiful Bondi.

Why it’s so good?

I love the sunrise, ocean swims, the beach vibe, the markets, the gorgeous food served at so many local cafes and restaurants – and I’m constantly bumping into people I know!

It’s a great community feel and my gorgeous grandson lives very close by, so I absolutely love that!

1: Tell me about your campaign

Fight Food Waste

The statistics for food waste are staggering, but the solutions are simple and there is no greater force than people power. Fight Food Waste is OzHarvest’s new consumer campaign which aims to address the problem from the bottom up by changing behaviour at home with how you look, buy, store and cook food.

The campaign has been developed to support the release of the independent documentary film Food Fighter which follows my journey to tackle food waste. We want everyone to feel inspired to join the movement at fightfoodwaste.org.

2: What ‘moment’ started this journey?

Working in the event industry for 20 years, I saw mountains of good food going to waste every day, whilst so many were still hungry – I knew there had to be a better way.  I was also looking for purpose in my life and a visit to see an old friend in South Africa who was doing amazing work with underprivileged communities reinforced what I knew I had to do.
I never set out to start a charity, I just saw a problem and decided to fix it. 

As soon as I started OzHarvest, I knew I had found my destiny and life’s work.

3: how did the idea grow?

As with any new business there were many twists and turns to get it off the ground.

I originally thought it would take about a month, but it actually took a year! 

To begin with everyone was happy to donate food, but that changed quickly when food donors thought they may be sued. So, my first mission was to make it possible to allow businesses to donate food without fear of liability. In 2005, with the help of pro bono lawyers we successfully lobbied to have the Civil Liabilities Amendment Act changed in NSW, other states followed shortly afterwards.

Ensuring a sustainable stream of funding is a constant challenge.  OzHarvest has grown enormously over the last few years and if we want to continue making an impact, more investment is needed.  I’m always pushing for how we can do more to deliver on core purpose to ‘Nourish our Country’ – whether it’s expanding food rescue operations, adding new education programs or innovative ways to reduce food waste and feed hungry people.

4: Any Unexpected delights along the way?

I’m constantly amazed and surprised by the number of people who say a simple thank you.  I was once stopped in the street by a lady who I did not know.  She told me about her son, who for many years struggled at school and how she found it difficult to make ends meet, but it all changed when they started to receive food from OzHarvest. Her son was able to concentrate at school and he had just gone to university! Knowing the effect of what we do drives me every day.

A magic moment for me is watching our Nourish students graduate.  After six months with OzHarvest, these vulnerable young people who have often never finished school, stand proudly in chef whites clutching their Certificate II in Hospitality.  I can see the difference we have made to their lives and know that they have hope, confidence and a pathway to a better future.

Opening Australia’s first free supermarket – The OzHarvest Market – was pretty special.  I knew it had to be done and when the opportunity came along, I seized it!

I was delighted to see the reaction from media outlets around the world who all covered the story and our Facebook video has been viewed over 8 million times!

But most importantly the Market has provided an avenue for anyone in Sydney who might be struggling financially to have access to a source of food provided with dignity and care.

5: How can we get involved?

It’s so easy to get involved – especially knowing in our own small way, we are making a difference.

Food is so precious, wasting it makes no sense – economically, environmentally and ethically – but we all find ourselves doing it.

OzHarvest has been fighting food waste for 14 years and now it’s time to get everyone on board by making a few simple changes to the way you buy and consume food at home.

Go to fightfoodwaste.org to sign up and join the movement. Be a part of the positive change!

6: Where to next?

I’m determined to make headway towards the national target of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. It’s big job and it requires change at all levels of society. We are aiming to increase awareness and education around food waste, and inspire people to change their behaviour, hence the launch of #fightfoodwaste.

To spread the message further we have developed a new nutrition and sustainability program that aligns with the national education curriculum called FEAST which we plan to roll out to primary schools to inspire kids to eat healthy, waste less and be change makers in their local community.

OzHarvest has already spread its wings overseas in New Zealand, the UK and South Africa.  I’m always looking for new ways to tackle the global issue of food waste by introducing our unique model to new markets.

 

7: Tips & Adivce

I believe that once you have found your purpose, make sure you surround yourself with passionate people.  Passion is contagious and helps you take on the world!  I always say OzHarvest is a magnet for magnificent people and to this day, we continue to attract great people from everywhere.

People always ask me how I do it, I look them in the eye and say,

‘The best time to do something is now, let’s just get on with it!’

Until you do it, you can’t actually explain the energy that fuels you.

8: your legacy

What do you hope your legacy will be?

When I started OzHarvest, my intention was to create something meaningful that would outlast me and always make a positive and impactful difference to the world. I hope that is what my legacy will be.

9: staying positive

I am particularly fortunate that my disposition is very positive and I have trained myself to look for the good in every situation. So on a grey and cloudy day – the sun hasn’t gone anywhere – it is just hiding behind the clouds! That makes me smile and keeps me positive.

10: favourite quote

‘To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest human battle ever and never to stop fighting’

E.E.Cummings

Well there you have it, a little bit of Ronni sunshine to brighten your day. Thank you Ronni! 

12 months ago it was Ronni’s words that gave us the nudge we needed to build our volunteer group 5 for Ryde, that led to sharing this process with other communities across Australia.

Feeling inspired, but overwhelmed with where to start?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  Download our toolkit and let’s get started


Jo and Corina are two completely average members of their community in Ryde.

12 months ago they took a War on Waste inspired journey by introducing simple ways to reduce the use of single-use plastics in their community. Now, with the help of the ABC they’re here to share the ‘hows’ of doing good for your ’hood with the War on Waste Toolkit

Jo Taranto and Corina Seeto

Founders, Good For The Hood

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