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Food & Hunger

Top Chefs Are Taking Olympians' Leftovers and Making Gourmet Meals for the Homeless

With 10,500 athletes, and thousands more coaches, family members, and journalists descending on Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics, there’s bound to be a lot of food that goes to waste.

But two world-class chefs have teamed up to put that food to good use.

David Hertz and Massimo Bottura, two of world’s top gastronomy chefs, collaborated in 2015 when Bottura invited Hertz to participate in Expo Milan dedicated to food waste. They turned 15 tons of unused food into 10,000 meals for homeless community members in Milan.

Now, the two are behind a food waste project in Rio, and it has a lot to do with an organization and movement Hertz started over a decade ago.

Food shouldn’t just taste good, it should do good for society — that’s the idea behind Gastromotiva — a movement born in São Paulo, Brazil, to bring social good through food and transform the lives of socially vulnerable communities.

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It’s the brainchild of Brazilian-born Hertz, who created Gastromotiva in 2004 to reach Brazil’s youth in low-income areas and to fill a labor gap for restaurants in Brazil. The organization helps youth create innovative gastronomy cuisine while transforming their lives and future prospects at the same time. A form of food culture often only accessible to those with higher socio-economic backgrounds, the students of Gastromotiva come from Brazil’s favelas to learn the art of gastronomic cooking.

"I want to make gastronomy into the most powerful movement to empower people to build bridges. Food has a social meaning. I want chefs to get engaged,” said Hertz.

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The program has trained over 1,200 youth from favelas, and 80 percent of those trained go on to gain employment.

Then, in 2010 Herz brought in Alex Atala (badass Brazilian chef from Season 2 of Chef’s Table), and started an initiative to help with prison rehabilitation as well.

Gastromotiva now teaches cooking training for gastronomy at São Paulo Female Penitentiary. In the first few years, more than 90 women gained high-quality culinary skills through the program. Several of whom now work in the gastronomical area — curating food with precise skill to emphasize the social, artistic, and technical aspects of preparing food.

So when the Olympics rolled around in Rio, Hertz and dozens of other chefs couldn’t just let all the extra food end up in landfills (like some countries). Instead, they created a food redistribution project just for the Olympics called ReffetoRio Gastromotiva.

The mission of ReffetoRio Gastromotiva is to serve meals with dignity to people facing hunger or in need of a nutritious meal who live at the center of the chaos of the Olympics in Rio.

During the Olympics the project will serve more than 5,000 imaginative, global culinary mixtures with hints of traditional Italian and Brazilian cuisine, according to Bottura.

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At a time where the city has millions of visitors flocking to flashy Olympic events, it’s comforting to know some of the most elite never forget there are still many who need a warm meal. And these meals will be spectacular. Bottura has big plans for using leftover bread for a breadcrumb pasta with a rich ""everything broth," while Hertz and Gastromotiva students and alumni will likely bring in more traditional Brazilian flavors. 

"We have an opportunity with this project, which is cultural, and not a charitable project, to fight wastefulness. If we change the way people think, we can help give birth to a new tradition," Bottura said.

The first meals will be served up starting Aug. 9 in the Lapo neighborhood at the center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.