By Magdalena Mis
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As athletes warm up for the start of the Rio Olympics on Friday, dozens of chefs are preparing for a different kind of challenge: feeding the Brazilian host city's hungry with excess food from the Olympic Village.
Chefs David Hertz from Brazil and Italian Massimo Bottura, aided by more than 40 colleagues from around the world, aim to turn surplus food from the village in Rio de Janeiro into some 5,000 nutritious meals per day for those in need.
The initiative, RefettoRio Gastromotiva, follows a similar project, Refettorio Ambrosiano, launched by the two chefs during the Milan Expo in Italy last year.
"RefettoRio Gastromotiva is going to work only with ingredients that are about to be wasted ... like ugly fruit and vegetables, or yoghurt that is going to be wasted in two days if you don't buy it," Hertz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Those benefiting will be disadvantaged people, including the homeless and others in need, he added.
"We want to fight hunger and provide access to good food," Hertz said in a telephone interview from Rio.
Between 30 percent and 40 percent of food produced around the world is never eaten because it is spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers.
Yet almost 800 million people worldwide go to bed hungry every night, according to U.N. figures.
In Brazil, hunger dropped to under 5 percent of the population in 2015 from almost 15 percent in 1990, U.N. data shows. Yet in the country of 208 million people, that means millions still don't have enough food.
Hertz said he would like to see the initiative replicated in every city hosting the Olympics in future. He hopes it will become a movement not only to fight food waste and feed the hungry, but also to provide vocational training for future cooks, bakers and waiters.
"After the Olympics and the Paralympics, this place will continue as a social business," he said.
Customers at the restaurant will help a person in need with every meal they buy, he added.
"We want to promote as much change as possible using gastronomy as a tool for social change and social inclusion," said Hertz, whose Brazil-based organisation Gastromotiva offers kitchen training for young people from poor families.
"For now it's still only a dream. We need strategic partners to make this happen. It seems amazing but we need investors."
As many as 500,000 visitors are expected to travel to Brazil for the 31st Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the first Olympics in South America.
The newly built Olympic Village will host more than 18,000 athletes, officials, staff and volunteers over the Aug. 5-21 Olympics and the Sept. 7-18 Paralympics.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)