The CEO and founder of Australia’s leading food rescue charity OzHarvest, Ronni Kahn AO, addressed the National Press Club to mark International Women’s Day.
In the event hosted by Women in Media Australia, the social entrepreneur spoke about purpose – believe, discover, give.
Here are seven key takeaways.
Her ‘Robin Hood’ moment
For a client, she organised a Roman-style banquet for about 1000 staff.
“The tables groaned, there were wheels of parmesan, there were kegs of beer, barrels of wine,” she said.
“They saw the barrels and kegs. … They drank and they barely touched the food and I had hundreds and hundreds of kilos of food and there was no way that night that I could throw that food away.”
So, she loaded what she could into a van and delivered it to the Matthew Talbot Hostel at 2am.
“I gingerly go up the stairs, knock on the door and say ‘I have a van full of food, will you take it?’ It was confronting and challenging but they said ‘give it to us” and it just made me realise how easy that was,” she said.
“That was really the beginning of my rogue food rescue days. When I could, I would tell my clients … ‘don’t worry about having excess food, just sign on the bottom here then I can give it away’.
“I felt really like a Robin Hood.”
Order of the teaspoon
People could respond in three ways when facing an emergency such as a fire, according to Ms Khan.
Some could spot the fire and run away as fast as possible, leaving behind those unable to run from the flames.
Others could write an angry letter to the newspaper, demanding that the perpetrators be punished.
The rest could find a bucket.
“If we cannot find a bucket, we can find a jug,” she said.
“And if we cannot find a jug, we can find a teaspoon because every single one of us has a teaspoon.
“I know that that fire is huge and the flames are enormous and a teaspoon is tiny but there are millions of us and each and every one of us can use our teaspoons.
“I would like to create the order of the teaspoon, where each and every one of us wears a teaspoon on our lapel, around our necks, like I do, or as part of a ring, to remind us to use our teaspoons every single day.
She has no political ambitions
“I think I can be so much more effective not in politics,” she said.
“I will use my voice, I will support women.
“I will be a role model, if that is useful but it seems to me that politics is just not where I am at.”
But Ms Khan stressed that “we clearly need more women in leadership”.
And child care is critical
“In Australia today, the reason that it is so difficult for women to go to work is because child care is so fundamentally out of reach,” she said.
“It is absolutely unaffordable.
“That has to shift and change, not just for the women in the family but so that anyone who chooses to work and has a family has an option to have affordable child care.”
The food waste bill is mind boggling
Ms Kahn said $36 billion worth of food went to waste every year, while one in six people in Australia suffered from “food insecurity”.
“I am so thrilled that you had got to eat your lunch before I talked because normally people hate eating lunch with me because they don’t want to leave anything on their plates,” she told the audience at the National Press Club.
Then she revealed, the National Press Club chef had served lentils and vegetables “rescued” this week.
Tips to become ‘food warriors’ in your home
Ms Khan cited a mantra – look, buy, cook, store.
“Look what is in your fridge before you go shopping, look what is in your pantry, make a shopping list,” she said.
“Buy what you need, store it well, cook it and use it up. Don’t buy two for one. If there is a special where there is two lettuce for the price of one, you know very well that the chances are there will be slimy grungy lettuce in your fridge at the end of the week. That is false economy.”
Households waste between $1500 and $3000 of food a year.
From a lavish lifestyle to ‘intentional living’
Ms Khan said she grew up with a family that didn’t have a lot of money and grabbed the opportunity for a “lavish, princess kind of life”.
“But it made me feel so uncomfortable when I realised what it had done to me,” she said.
“My life today is – I don’t have a job. I am so lucky that I have not had a day of work ever since the day that I started OzHarvest.
“Every day, I wake up with enormous gratitude, gratitude that I have a bed, gratitude that there is a roof over my head, that I can look out of a window.
“I hope that I live with awareness and an ability to listen and to learn and to be curious and it is not about the things that one can have.
“I own my possessions, they don’t own me.”