Rio de Janerio faced a lot of scrutiny, but some chefs are making a positive impact on food waste during the games.
What type of Food Programs will be at the Rio Olympics?
With the Summer Olympics just a few weeks away, Rio de Janeiro is bracing itself to more than ever to be under the scrutiny of the world and to face the unrelenting eye of the media. Recent reports indicate that the city is struggling with its preparations, citing unprepared living quarters for athletes, subpar water quality, and elevated crime.
It was announced in 2009 that Rio would host the 2016 games, but in the seven years following the announcement, Rio is still not fully prepared to host the games starting on August 5.
That said, many remain hopeful that Rio will be able to pull the event off and that the Olympics will not only showcase the world’s greatest athletes, but also the spirit and resilience of the Brazilian people.
Large events, like the Olympics, draw massive crowds to a variety of different arenas that can span across entire cities. Depending on the event, the responsibility of providing food for patrons may fall on parties ranging from the attendees, private organizers, or to the host city itself. That said when the event reaches “Olympic” size, providing food for such an enormous amount of people can pose challenges. Not only can it be a logistical nightmare on the front-end of planning, but the amount of food that is wasted during the event calls into question the efficiency of organizers themselves.
Agriculture and food production is a very important part of the Brazilian economy. As of 2009, Brazil contained more than 106 million hectares of undeveloped fertile land and over 65 million hectares of cultivated land. Brazil’s main exports include grains, soy, and sugar cane with its total value in the economy as of 2008 reaching $65.56 billion USD.
However, although Brazil participates heavily in agriculture and has even been labeled as the “breadbasket of the world,” as of 2013, there were 9.9 million living in poverty with approximately 26% of the population living below the poverty line.
This contrast raises a moral dilemma when it comes to the country hosting such a large and costly event. A lot of money will be spent in Brazil in the coming month by different parties in order to feed all the people coming for the Olympics. But in a place with so much food being produced (and likely wasted along the way), many of its own residents have limited access to the food itself.
That is why this year, the Rio Olympics will feature the “Reffeto-Rio” program headed by world-class Italian Chef, Massimo Bottura alongside David Hertz, founder of the nonprofit “Gastromotiva.” The program was unveiled on July 8th and seeks to redistribute food wasted at the events in Rio to the homeless or the poor in the city’s favelas. Bottura launched a similar program last year at an expo in Milan, where 15 tons of food from the event was reworked into meals instead of being thrown away.
Tackling food waste at large sporting events is not new. The lead up to the 2012 Games in London featured similar considerations according to Ronan Leyden, head of sustainable places at Bioregional. Preventing waste meant downsizing on portions and reworking consumer messaging. Preventing “cross-contamination” of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste was also a challenge and forced Leyden to come up with new strategies to change the behavior of customers. Patrick Hermon, director of UK/EU operations at eTool, also pointed out the value of rethinking menus:
“To attend a sporting event will typically consume 2-6kg CO2. This jumps up by 2kg or so if you drive 20km to get there, and another 2kg if you eat a burger. If that burger is composted you could save a few grams, which is great, but the bigger picture is that there are other areas that require more attention, such as selling the burger in the first place.”
Typically though, many sources seem to echo similar suggestions: manage portions, include vegetarian or vegan options, use local and organic sources, minimize scraps in the kitchen, donate unsold food, and compost unused products. With this event, Bottura’s goal is not only to help reduce waste, but also to educate others for future events and continue to raise awareness about food waste: “Above all, we mostly hope to become an example for others, and that work like ours will help favor social integration through a commitment to fighting waste and redistributing resources. We would like to see the commitment to this cultural project expand and multiply all over the world.”
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