Chefs with Compassion: Turning waste into wholesome meals

Chefs have banded together with civil society in a collaborative effort to curb the hunger crisis. Chefs with Compassion cook hearty, healthy meals for the destitute. Photo: Dr Naudé Malan

An alliance of local and global organisations backed by 300 chefs, restaurant owners and volunteers have stepped to the fore to battle the immediate hunger crisis in South Africa.  

The global covid-19 pandemic has underlined the magnitude of hunger in the country, believes managing director of NOSH Food Rescue, Hanneke van Linge. Her organisation is one of five that form part of a collaborative initiative to tackle hunger, called Chefs with Compassion. 

NOSH Food Rescue is a non-profit company that was founded in 2015. It is now collaborating with Slow Food Chefs Alliance SA, South African Chefs Association and Slow Food International in the Chefs with Compassion initiative.

Van Linge says that NOSH Food Rescue provides restaurants and chefs with end-of-life food that is still fit for human consumption. These potentially wasted foods are turned into nutritious meals for the destitute. 

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The Chefs with Compassion feeding scheme was founded in early April after PresCyril Ramaphosa announced the national lockdown. It is comprised of a network of restaurants who prepare meals daily for the needy and vulnerable in the thick of the pandemic. 

A network of charity organisations, chefs and restaurant repurpose ‘end-of-life’ produce into meals for the destitute. PHOTO: Naudé Malan

Spearheaded by NOSH Food Rescue, the scheme is an immediate response to the crisis of hunger brought on the coronavirus.    

“We put the challenge out to the industry and other restaurants, saying, Hey guys, we have access to this waste produce from the market,” says Van Linge. 

“That is what NOSH Food Rescue does. We find wherever there is food and produce that is being wasted and then we try to utilize that and distribute it to a network of soup kitchens and shelters and feeding schemes.”   

To date the initiative has delivered upwards of 67 000 meals countrywide and has made a significant impact on hunger.   

“The response from beneficiary organisations has been huge and overwhelming, there is so much need out there and everybody is grasping at straws,” says Van Linge.  

“Mzansi’s restaurants occupy a very important position in this network of relief.”

“The government and department of social development’s programmes are not reaching everybody. I think they are very selective. We feel that the NGO and non-profit sector is better able to reach a lot of the needy people.”  

Van Linge says that networks amongst chefs and restaurant owners have been able to organise kitchens located across the country for this initiative. 

“We saw the need and we just really fast-tracked a project which NOSH has been wanting to start for so long. It really has just exploded. There is so much waste and I don’t think the need is going to go away any time soon.”  

Local restaurants receive produce and prepare meals that are taken to beneficiaries by local non-governmental organisations organised by NOSH Food Rescue.   

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Mzansi’s restaurants occupy a very important position in this network of reliefsays Van Linge. Local chefs have the skills and expertise to ensure the meals prepared are acceptable and ensure dignity for the recipient. 

At these kitchens the donated food is sorted and prepared and all unusable food is discarded. Van Linge has hopes to help rebuild South Africa’s complex food system through Chefs with Compassion. 

“Food security and food sovereignty in South Africa is very broken. It’s not just about the food rescue part of what we want to do. That’s why this collaboration with the chefs and restaurants is important for us. Our mandate is around educating and showing people what happens with food and food waste.” 

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