Rio 2016: Olympic Village Chefs Serve Surplus Food To The Hungry

Two chefs in Rio have continued an initiative started at the Milan World Expo in 2015 by Bottura’s Refetterio Ambrosiano, where 65 international chefs prepared meals with food that would have been disposed of and served them to the underprivileged. Now, at the Rio 2016 Olympics, along with the Olympic Village chefs, they are doing the same by serving surplus food to the hungry that live in the ghettos surrounding the city says ABC News.

The project, called RefettoRio Gastromotiva, aims to “offer food and dignity to people in situations of social vulnerability,” says a statement released by the city of Rio. The city is offering its support by way of allowing the use of a building in the city center for the project.

Planning began in December of last year, and after many meetings, failed partnerships, and much persistence, chef Massimo Bottura, owner of one of the world’s best restaurants, and David Hertz, the founder of Gastromotiva NGOs, managed to secure a 400m2 premises. Their efforts were further rewarded by a 200,000-euro contribution from the Food for Soul organization. The house will serve 108 meals a day to preregistered underprivileged people and be prepared with food that would normally be wasted.

Italian top chef Massimo Bottura attends a press conference at Rome's Chigi Palace government office [Angelo Carconi/Ansa via AP)

During the day, the Refettorio Gastromotiva will be open to the public and offer a tasting menu prepared by its own staff in partnership with renowned guest chefs, and in the evenings, the underprivileged will be served.

“As you can see, it was the result of hard work and many partnerships with people who have the will to do good. It’s time to give back to the world what it has given us. We are building new traditions through culture and leaving a legacy for the city,” said Massimo.

All the meals served will be prepared using the surplus food donated by the catering company that cooks for the Olympic Village. The Village houses more than 11,000 athletes, the Olympic media center, and the entire staff of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The incentive is supported by more than 40 associations and individuals and aims to continue providing free meals to the underprivileged of Rio long after the Olympic Games. It hopes to rely on the help of sponsors, as they have the use of the building for the next 10 years.

According to the Associated Press, Brazil is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades just two years after hosting the FIFA World Cup. The Olympic stadium is surrounded by slums and rife with gang violence and poverty.

“The poor, we don’t really get to experience the Olympics. We are close in distance, but far away,” said Luiz Alberto Araujo, a 30-year-old resident who works as a doorman in the upmarket Ipanema beach area. “We still have fun, but this party is for foreigners, for the rich,” he said.

Ipanema beach is seen from the Vidigal shantytown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. [Felipe Dana/AP Photo]

“I like having my family over. Of course, it would be a lot better to be right there,” school teacher Sandra Prado said. “But those prices are impossible for us.” She invited friends and family to watch the opening ceremony from the rooftop of her house in the slum.

For the poor, the festivities of the ceremony were far beyond their means, with tickets for the opening ranging between around $63 and $1,400, while a minimum wage worker in Brazil takes home around $55 a week.

“It is scandalous that ticket prices cater to very few higher-income residents and that the bulk of profits will leave the country,” said Bruno Carvalho, author of the book Porous City: A Cultural History of Rio de Janeiro. “It was as if many Brazilians found out that they were hosting a global party to which only a select few had been invited.”

The initiative taken by the chefs will hopefully be a positive and lasting benefit for at least some of the thousands of Rio’s poor long after the 2016 Olympic Games have concluded.

[Photo by Renato Spyrro/AP Images]