The Brazilian organization Favela Orgânica has delivered nearly 110 million meals to people in need while keeping over 37,000 tons of food from reaching landfills over the last 8 years. “Favela Orgânica’s changes the relationship between people and food, making consumers aware of each stage of the food cycle, from purchase through preparation and disposal of food,” says Regina Tchelly, founder of Favela Orgânica.
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), Brazil annually sends 41 thousand tons of food to landfills, placing the country among the ten most food-wasting countries. At the same time, a report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that food insecurity has increased in the country, from 4.9 million food insecure people in 2010 to 5.2 million in 2017.
Favela Orgânica promotes a change in the culture of consumption and waste by hosting lectures, catering events with recovered and healthy foods, and training kitchen and cafeteria staff to value typically-wasted parts of food as part of a healthy lifestyle. “People are interested in this project because they can see how good eating habits positively affects their health, quality of life, and even their budgets,” Tchelly tells Food Tank.
Through a partnership with vegetable markets, Tchelly collects vegetables that are discarded in Rio’s markets and takes them to favela communities, teaching residents some of their over 500 catering recipes that utilize watermelon rinds, banana peels, broccoli stems, and other commonly discarded vegetable parts. “We’re teaching that using vegetables fully, it is possible to buy less and cook more with the same amount of food,” Tchelly explains to Food Tank.
Favela Orgânica works with favelas not only to educate these communities about sustainable and healthy eating, but also to show others the traditional culinary and agricultural knowledge concentrated in favelas—which have inspired Favela Orgânica’s catering and workshop menus. “Because of the social and economic profile of people in these communities, people tend to assume poor eating habits are a matter of ignorance in these places, but it is not the case. I have found an enormous amount of local knowledge there and developed recipes with people born and raised in favelas,” Tchelly tells Food Tank.
Tchelly dreams of creating an after-school program for children between the ages five and ten, where the children can learn about food production, food cycles, and their power and responsibility in choosing food that is good for the planet and their health. “Because our recipes are so unconventional, at first children don’t want to try anything, but soon they start asking for more,” Tchelly tells Food Tank. “This is why we want to focus our work with children, because they are naturally curious to try new things and they act as educators to the adults in their families.”
Photo courtesy of Favela Orgânica.