Photo: First We Feast

Photo: First We Feast

Sure, all those gold medal performances we’re seeing at the Olympics are powered by heart and by years of intense training. But they’re also fueled by good nutrition, and the mounds of food provided in the Olympic Village.

Needing to feed 18,000 athletes and coaches three square meals a day for weeks requires over 250 tons of food. With staggering consumption and an abundance of raw ingredients, surely there’s bound to be food that goes to waste.

That was the fundamental belief of Italian chef Massimo Bottura, who estimated that about 12 tons of food would wind up in the trash — a devastating number in a city where about 25% of the population live in favelas, or poverty-stricken communities.

The renowned chef, whose three-star Michelin restaurant, Franciscan Osteria, in Modena decided to take action. In less than two months, he concocted a plan to serve gourmet meals to 70 homeless Brazilians every night using leftovers from the Olympic Games.

Don’t think it’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes either. With Brazilian chef David Hertz, the two are masterfully plating sautéed beef and panzanella alongside Italian-style couscous. And other big-name chefs are taking their turn in the kitchen, too.

“The project is very cultural. That’s why I want to be involved with the best chefs in the world. We want to make visible the invisible for everyone,” Bottura said.

It’s not just the Olympic Village catering service that is dropping off food. Neighborhood markets and local restaurants have helped filled Bottura’s fridge and pantry.

“This is not just a charity; it’s not just about feeding people,” Bottura told the New York Times. “This is about social inclusion, teaching people about food waste and giving hope to people who have lost all hope.”

According to according to the Brazilian charity Banco de Alimentos, “more than 3.4 million people – 1.7% of the population – live in state of food insecurity.” (HuffPost)

The hope is to serve 19,000 meals during the Games. After they’re over, the program will continue serving meals and offering cooking classes.

This team — one comprised of chefs — deserves Olympic gold.