IN CONVERSATION WITH:
| Australian social entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of the food rescue charity OzHarvest |
This month we sat down with one of our favourite humans, Ronni Kahn. Ronni is an Australian social entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of the food rescue charity OzHarvest. Choosing to dedicate her time for the fight against global food waste, Ronni’s passion and tenderness is infectious and we feel incredibly honoured to know and work with such an amazing woman!
First things first, what does a morning at Casa Kahn look like?
I wake up early, generally do some exercises and then I try and get out for a beach walk or an ocean swim. Breakfast is big on my agenda and then straight to work!
You have lived a very colourful life… born in South Africa, moved to Israel for many years and lived in a kibbutz, before emigrating to Australian in 1998. How has this impacted and shaped the woman you are today?
The life I lived before moving to Australia has fundamentally shaped who I am today. My childhood, being brought up in South Africa under the Apartheid Regime, most definitely impacted, both knowingly and sublimely, the person I would be. Living in Israel gave me experiences and exposed me to different types of lifestyles that I would have never experienced anywhere else. And all of these elements are what allowed me to be the woman I am today.
OzHarvest was founded back in 2004, can you describe the journey to this point? What sparked such passion and drive within you?
I had to solve a problem that I had – I was running a big event company, putting on wonderful events and my problem became that I was creating waste. I didn’t realise it, I just wanted to have wonderful, abundant, generous events for my clients but at the end of every event of there was food left over. There became a time where the waste was too shocking and too unconscionable, so I became a rogue food rescuer! I soon realised this felt too good and that’s what brought me to actually starting OzHarvest.
I started OzHarvest because I needed to fulfil this piece of me, as well as solve a problem. I could not afford to stop working, so I continued my event business for another 7 years, until in 2010 when I won an award that allowed me to be paid a small salary for the year to go and work in the charity of my choice. But I was not allowed to do anything else…so I closed the doors to my business and leapt without a parachute.
On your mission to fight against food waste and feed hungry people, you speak of the importance of changing the system, if everyone could take one small step tomorrow to help, what could that look like?
That is the best question you could ask! There is something inside of us all that craves to be an activist in some way, or a change maker or feel like we are being the most useful and effective person we can be, particularly regarding climate change, given that we know how detrimental and urgent change is required. A lot of people don’t realise that food waste feeds climate change and many of us underestimate the value of food. Reducing food waste at home is easy – all you have to do is ‘use it up’ and not waste it, then we would be making a dramatic difference. The national target currently in Australia is to halve food waste by 2030, and given that households account for 30% of all food going to waste, that would certainly help to achieve that goal. The first and most powerful action that anyone can take, that is right within our reach, is to stop wasting food and to use it up!
OzHarvest created a national campaign to make it easy for Aussies to waste less. Simply named ‘Use It Up’ we developed a new product called Use It Up tape, to put on food that needs to be used. When you can see it – you can use it! It’s available for free on the OzHarvest website.
The campaign was based on consumer insights from research that we commissioned with BehaviourWorks Australia. The tape is a world first product, that’s reusable, recyclable, and dishwasher-safe. We’ve found that people utilising this tool are saving 30% of food, which in turn saves money! Households currently waste up to $1,500-$3,000 a year on food that goes in the bin. Simply using this tape and getting into the ‘use it up’ habit – will save food, save money and save our planet at the same time!
Of course, sustainable practices play a major role within the work you do, and at NOMAD it is something we feel very strongly about and something we will continue to work on, finding ways to do things better. When choosing a restaurant to dine at, does their approach & practices influence your decision?
Absolutely, I’ve always wanted to create a good food guide that had a yellow heart, and the restaurants that were sustainable would have a big yellow heart next to them so that people could make a decision to go where the owners of these restaurants care deeply about sustainability. So, for me personally, of course it makes a difference to me. That’s how I choose but I think we all should.
I’ve just reminded myself of this idea! I’ll try my best to make this happen.
There are many out there who look to you for inspiration on how they can improve their environmental impact. Is there someone you look to in ways that you live your life. If so, who & how?
In ways there are lots of people that I can think of but Annika Stott who worked for OzHarvest and led our whole sustainability department. She lives every breath of what she teaches us and practices. There are global leaders such as Damon Gameau, who has made wonderful films also. The list goes on…
We ask all our In Conversation With guests this very important question… you’re hosting a dinner party at your house, what are you serving up food and drink wise?
Ok this will normally have a Middle Eastern theme. I love simple and beautiful produce that has been produced and put together with wonderful spices and great quality product that speak for themselves. Always salads, and there might be fish, and of course it would be fish I have checked is sustainably caught from the fish butcher. I am not big on dessert; I much prefer savoury so there may be lovely fruit, cheese and crackers and lovely bread from Iggy’s! There will always be nice wine but I also do a lot of coconut or sparkling water that is made at home.
Dinner at NOMAD, what are you ordering for the table?
Oh my god your hummus with your beautiful bread and eggplant. All those wonderful vegetarian dishes that Jacqui just manages to turn out. That bread though…it is magnificent!
A younger Ronni Kahn stands in front of you, what advice would give to her?
I would probably say you wasted so much time not believing in yourself. Imagine if you really could have dug deep and said “I can do this, I can and will do amazing things.”
When you look back on 2022 what do you hope to have achieved?
I hope my team feel inspired and refreshed because right now there is an enormous amount of exhaustion. I hope they see that we have managed to make such a great impact and make such a difference to so many people’s lives and that they are proudly looking forward to 2023.