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Rafa Rincón Magro
Source: Rafa Rincón Magro

Why Rafael Rincón believes we can “change the world by eating”

This article originally appeared on Medium

This interview features new Ashoka Fellow Rafael Rincón whose stipend is covered by IKEA Social Entrepreneurship through the Dela programme

Collaboration amidst rising world hunger

If you have children to feed and a loaf of bread costs the same as one tomato, which food do you choose? When Rafael Rincón moved to Chile in 2005, he was determined to find new solutions to combat malnutrition and social inequality in his community and beyond. Over a decade later, he founded Fundación Gastronomía Social in 2019. The foundation works to educate and promote inclusion through food (through its platform Ñam) and to build collaborations that protect food security and the environment (through Comida para Todos (CPT).

Rafael’s team is decentralizing food banks and tackling food waste by working across sectors and alongside communities that feel the impact of food issues the most. In less than two years, Gastronomía Social has already rescued an estimated amount of 120,000 kilograms (about 264 pounds) of food from going to waste. We spoke with Rafael on innovating to ensure food security for all.

Fundación Gastronomía Social


Ashoka: Tell us how you launched Gastronomia Social and the team behind it.

Rafael: When I arrived in Chile as a creative director, I learned that the country, which is rich in food, has extraordinary inequity in food distribution, one of the highest obesity rates in the world, and a growing industry that remains inaccessible to many. Eight months in, I started my first conscious food business, after working in restaurants across England, Spain and Chile. My family in Madrid had many restaurants, and from the time I was young, food culture played an important role in my life. I decided to focus on the importance of food education, as well as gastronomy — by which I mean bringing together health, culture and the environment. In 2019 our foundation was born.

During the pandemic, the founders of Gastronomia Social and its more than 20 team members, including chefs, engineers and communication specialists, began collaborating with other actors in the food system. We work with all kinds of actors — think restaurants, food producers, food distributors, NGOs, municipalities and media partners — to seek the common good and environmental health through gastronomy.


Gastronomia Social’s model is changing the food culture in Chile. At the same time, you’re creating fair employment opportunities. How do you bring these things together?

Connecting people with nature through food strengthens the bond of respect for the environment. We train people in environmental, social and health awareness. And our approach welcomes the gastronomic community (meaning producers, restaurants, distributors, professionals, students, social organizations, public institutions and citizens) to participate. The most important metrics we look at are:

  1. Supporting people in vulnerable situations to increase their income through employment or micro-enterprise.
  2. Improving the quality of educational and training spaces.
  3. Collaborating and growing the number of people graduating from our programs.
Fundación Gastronomía Social


How does the relationship between food and equity play a role in Gastronomia Social’s model? What can we learn from how this works in practice?

I believe that when we support people to strengthen their green skills, we create growth opportunities. We can make immediate change through entrepreneurship and cooperatives. These small centers enhance community wellbeing by producing healthy, balanced recipes made with products that would otherwise go to waste, due to things like physical imperfections or expiration dates.

Another example is community gardens. Urban agriculture can bolster food security in poorer areas that do not receive state or private aid. For two years, we’ve seen over 100 people frequently enjoyed quality vegetables and develop the garden into their own community-building space.

Last, if we implement environmental education in schools, we can raise a generation that lives in harmony with nature through food. We’re implementing a food education program for all children in the first year of basic education (eight years old) in a historically-excluded community. We’re also creating a youth cooperative that will produce high-quality products — like jams, pastries, bread, pickles, and meals — from food waste. To pull it off, we’re working with four institutions, two of them public. The model will be replicated in other schools.

Fundación Gastronomía Social


Why do you think food culture is a good entry point for social change?

Because a good plate of food — which respects health, culture and the environment — is a wonderful universal language. The humanity that resides in the recipes, in the traditions — is unparalleled.

We believe that through food, people communicate with love. Because the gastronomy industry is so large, if all of us unite, I believe we can achieve rapid social change.

My motto: “let’s change the world by eating” is the most delicious way to do it.

Now that we are joining Ashoka’s network, with the support of the Dela systems change programme co-created by Ashoka and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, we will grow our impact even further. The funding and learning opportunities will allow us to not only grow our programs but also will help us build exciting new collaborations that bring more people in. I’m motivated to continue on this path with joy, commitment, consistency and love.



What are 5 things that you’ve learned along this journey?

1. Small-scale prototyping is always necessary.

2. Collaboration must be radical and unconditional to bring about social change.

3. Commitment and consistency are the keys to not decay.

4. We must always act with excellence and care.

5. Failure and fear are necessary. They are a gift that allows us to improve over time and spark new ideas.


Ashoka: What do you envision for your organization’s impact and reach in the future? How do you envision its growth?

We want to revolutionize the way we educate and train professionals in the gastronomic industry. And we’re going to do it through gamified training. Young people, especially those who might be unemployed due to the pandemic, can use our digital tool to train for careers in food business via asynchronous gastronomic learning. We’ll also have paid content aimed at amateurs, foodies, and professionals who care about social impact.

Fundación Gastronomía Social

The result: a virtual ecosystem where people can find community, training, and connect with current and potential workers, employees, entrepreneurs, companies, foodies, academia and more. The young people using this virtual space can also take advantage of physical learning spaces provided by the Social Gastronomy Foundation.

For us, green skills must be in the public education school programs internationally. We want to be an ally for public institutions, train thousands of entrepreneurs and generate thousands of jobs — all while transforming our communities and the gastronomic industry for the better.

This article originally appeared on Medium