As the founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn is at the coalface of Australia’s cost of living crisis.
The journey beginsIn the 1980s, while working as an events planner, Ronni began to reflect on the amount of food she was throwing away. “I’d been doing this for years, throwing away food, wasting food and it took one particularly huge event to get galvanised and realise ‘oh my God’, this is ridiculous,” she says.
In the first month that OzHarvest was up and running, it delivered 4,000 meals to 14 shelters using one van. Today, the charity collects over five tonnes of food per day and delivers the equivalent of 15,000 meals a day from more than 900 food donors, including delis, takeaways shops, boardrooms, hotels, restaurants, producers, growers, farmers and fields dotted around the country. It is then delivered to more than 585 charities all around Australia.
Ronni's OrganisationThe organisation works on several levels. Aside from feeding those most in need, it saves money for the charities, as they no longer have to provide food for their clients, and for the businesses that donate, as they don’t need to pay disposal costs.
While her role as a high-profile advocate has brought with it many accolades, Ronni says she never consciously sought a life in the spotlight. As with anyone with a public profile, she says there have obviously been times when she’d rather people didn’t know her private business, such as when relationships fell apart or occasions when the family experienced loss. For the most part, she says it has been a means to an end. “I don’t enjoy it or not enjoy it,” she says. “It comes with the territory. It’s very useful to get a message across, it’s useful to sustain the course and it’s useful to educate but it’s not something I ever yearned for or looked for. Instead, it’s something that has come with my role and I make sure I use my voice to get maximum value.”
Unlike many women past the official age of retirement who occupy high-profile positions, Ronni says she has yet to experience ageism in its most obvious form. “I don’t believe I’ve experienced it but that may be because I don’t pay any attention to people who don’t pay attention to me. I’ve never considered it a barrier for me and I think that’s what’s important. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist but just that I’ve not allowed it to exist for me.”
An amazing careerDespite the heavy responsibility resting on her shoulders, Ronni says she remains an optimist at heart. She balances the heavy emotional, mental and physical demands of her job with meditation, yoga and swimming.
“I say I haven’t worked a day in the 18 years since I started OzHarvest. Every day is a joy so I don’t switch off, because I don’t want to."