Portrait of a waste warrior
“STILL no bloody yoghurt!”
OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn has literally moved mountains — of food that would otherwise have ended up in landfill. But the glacial pace of bureaucratic change, compounded by political inertia, is enough to test even her formidable stamina.
While Khan’s charity has so far rescued 270,000 surplus Qantas meals for redistribution to the needy, the airline’s caterers still dump all their dairy products because of liability jitters.
The “accidental” activist’s frustration is palpable.
When OzHarvest was founded in 2004 the charity had one food van. Eleven years later, when Food Fighter began filming, that number had swelled to 34.
As she tells it, the former event planner (inset, below) had an epiphany in the early noughties at a particularly lavish $500,000 corporate extravaganza that she had helped to organise.
Scandalised by the waste, she reinvented her life — trading capitalism for social activism.
Her idea was relatively simple: to collect some of the $20 billion of good food that is dumped in Australia each year from restaurants, supermarkets, and other suppliers, to redistribute it to those who were struggling.
Its execution was rather more complex.
Food Fighter captures Kahn’s vulnerability as well as her chutzpah, the soft heart underneath that forthright front. Its subject is a naturally charismatic screen presence.
Kahn is at her most relaxed collecting the surplus food and handing it out to her vulnerable clients. But she’s most inspiring when she’s fronting up to the big end of town. At one point the waste warrior quotes a former colleague who describes her as like a “jet ski trying to pull an ocean liner”. The metaphor sticks. RONNI KAHN AND DIRECTOR DAN GOLDBERG WILL ATTEND Q& A SCREENING AT THE STATE THEATRE TONIGHT, 6.30PM, AHEAD OF A SHORT THEATRICAL SEASON AT EVENT CINEMAS JUNE 16- 20