International Chefs Uses Garbage-Bound Food to Create Meals for Rio’s Hungry Population

Italian chef Massimo Bottura and Brazilian chef David Hertz (not pictured) use surplus food donated by the catering companies at the Olympic park and athletes' village to feed Rio's hungry population. (TASSO MARCELO/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazil is one of the world’s biggest food wasters, with an average of 40,000 tons of food being discarded daily—nearly a third of the country’s harvested output. Now two international chefs aim to curb wastage in the South American nation with a new initiative.

Named RefettoRio Gastromotiva, the project is a collaborative effort between Brazilian chef David Hertz and Italian chef Massimo Bottura that will “offer food and dignity to people in situations of social vulnerability,” according to a statement released by the City of Rio.

Rio will also provide a 1,300-square-foot building for Hertz, Bottura, and a team of international chefs who will help out in the neighborhood of Lapa.

Excess food from the catering companies hired to feed the 11,000 Olympians, the Olympic Media Center, and the remaining workforce of the Summer Games will be converted by the team into 108 daily meals for the city’s hungry population.

“I made a promise to my mother that I would use my visibility to make the invisible visible. It’s time to give back to the world what she gave us,” said Bottura. “We have an opportunity through this project—which is cultural, not charity—to fight against waste. If we change the way of thinking, we can give birth to a new tradition.”

RefettoRio Gastromotiva hopes to continue its mission beyond the Olympics with the help of donations, and to help with that, Rio has provided them the building space for the next 10 years.

“I saw the Massimo design as the perfect opportunity to complement what we do with Gastromotiva. [It’s about] more than food, the goal is to train citizens. We had never worked with the issue of waste, and it is a legacy that we will leave. It is a project of people, and we want more people with us,” Hertz said.

This is the second food waste project Bottura has helped curate. In 2015, he established Refettorio Ambrosiano, where 60 chefs transformed 15 tons of donated food waste into meals for the homeless over a 5-month period during the Milan World Expo.

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