In 2004, sick of seeing food wasted, Ronni Kahn founded food rescue charity OzHarvest. The following year, she was critical in successfully lobbying for changes to food regulation laws that opened the way for businesses to more easily donate their leftover food. OzHarvest has since grown to 135 staff and delivered more than 27 million meals to people in need.
Last week, the compassionate company opened Australia’s very first rescued food supermarket in Sydney’s Kensington, which stocks perfectly edible food previously considered ‘waste’ due to expired use-by dates or mislabelled boxes. All items are for free, relying on the company motto of ‘take what you need, give what you can’. While the pop-up is a trial, we hope to see it become permanent, and many other open in its wake.
Here’s Ronni’s story.
What does your job entail? I’m the CEO and founder of OzHarvest. I oversee the strategies of good food not going to waste, help to educate people about sustainability and what we can do about it, and am constantly looking for new and innovative ways to help combat food waste and hunger.
Tell us about your workspace… It’s messy. I’m in a lot of meetings with face-to-face contact and giving lots of keynote and aspirational talks. That’s the best use of me – to be out and about, sharing the message.
Which personality traits do you think have really helped you to get you where you are? Passion. Belief with a sense of purpose. Strategic thinking. Empathy. Compassion.
What is something that most people might be surprised to know about you? I’m shy. I can only do this job and the public speaking because I believe so much in what we can do.
What do you see as your key challenges? To stay focused, to continue to do things for the right reason. To make sure there is enough investment for OzHarvest to ensure ongoing sustainability.
What have been the highlights of your career so far? Getting the first investor for OzHarvest, becoming Australian Local Hero of the Year in 2010, and branching out in more than one city to become a national organisation.
Who inspires you? My role model is Selma Browde from South Africa. [Selma is a former professor of radiation oncology and anti-apartheid activist, and co-founder of Operation Hunger, a South African not-for-profit with a 35-year history of initiatives to improve nutrition and food security in impoverished communities.]
Do you have any mentors? I read lots of self-help books.
What are you working on now? Lots – global expansion, but not for the sake of being bigger, to the UK, South Africa [and] Thailand, as well as growing in regional Australia where we look for champions to train and support through our REAP by OzHarvest program.
What is something you’d like to do? To get paid to do my art.
Which other businesses do you think are doing interesting things? Any business that adds purpose to the third sector. Ernst & Young are impressive with their social entrepreneurship, which has real purpose.
What are your favourite tools? My mouth – for talking – and our brand.
This is an extract from Collective Hub Issue 43. Purchase your copy here.
Photography by Sue Stubbs.