Ozzy Nel is COO and newly appointed board member of SA Harvest, the food rescue and hunger relief organisation that has rescued over 10,6 million tonnes of food from going to waste and delivered it to more than 200 beneficiaries across South Africa, resulting in the delivery of over 35,3 million meals.
Nel believes his position at SA Harvest brings him full circle in his life. “At 16 my brother and I got involved with communities in Ivory Park and the surrounding areas – we did development work, played soccer, and taught martial arts, while my parents taught reading and writing.”
After matriculating in 1996, Nel studied extensively to become a chef, as well as a manager and team builder extraordinaire. When he built his own team to work with him in restaurant management, he chose people from the areas where he had worked as a youngster – that was 20 years ago, and many of the original team are with him today at SA Harvest.
He describes a core strength as “managing multiple outlets” which he did as he worked for several years with Jamie Oliver and various other upmarket restaurants. When the pandemic struck and he lost all his restaurant business, he by chance encountered airline entrepreneur Gidon Novick who is also chairman of SA Harvest. Nel’s response was instant. He wanted to volunteer.
His skills, insight, cheffing experience and most importantly, his passion for supporting vulnerable people, ensured that was a perfect fit for the SA Harvest structure.
Alan Browde, CEO of SA Harvest, says Nel’s influence is felt throughout SA Harvest’s operations. “From budgeting, procurement, and warehouse management to logistics control, marketing, and digital systems, and from diesel engines to relationship building, Ozzy keeps things running professionally.”
Ozzy’s ‘team’ includes the whole SA Harvest family: team mates, beneficiaries, benefactors, donors, food partners and suppliers. Browde adds, “SA Harvest has become a major player in the fight to end hunger in South Africa in three short years, and we couldn’t have done this without Ozzy’s dedication to his team and to ending hunger in South Africa.”
Nel says joining SA Harvest was a remarkably eye-opening experience. “In the restaurants we had made an effort to reduce food waste and direct it to vulnerable communities, but I had no idea that 10 million tons of food waste go into landfills in South Africa each year, while millions go hungry and child malnutrition is a major issue.”
He’s delighted to be part of an organisation that is helping to reduce hunger, but adds that “we’ve only scratched the surface of the systemic issue of food waste and hunger. We have a long way to go and we’re working at involving as many people as possible. There’s space for everybody.”
Looking ahead, Nel says the country is still in a crisis situation as far as the need for moving food to vulnerable communities is concerned, but what is most exciting is the opportunity for SA Harvest to be involved in systemic interventions that can change the broken food system in South Africa.
Follow SA Harvest’s journey on Instagram or for more information go to www.saharvest.org.