The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are full of amazing athletic feats and split-second victories. In the excitement of cheering on your favorite country, it's easy to forget that behind all that energy is a simple thing: food.

According to statistics from the New York Times, 250 tons of raw ingredients are needed to feed the 18,000 athletes, coaches and officials in the Olympic Village — and that's just for one meal. You can do the math for three meals a day and two weeks of games. With that much food, there's bound to be plenty of waste, something Italian chef Massimo Bottura knows about. (His Modena, Italy, restaurant Osteria Francescana is considered the best in the world.)

Bottura is a longtime champion of culinary philanthropy. Gastromotiva is his Brazil-based nonprofit, which offers kitchen training classes to "socially vulnerable" members of society. More than 2,500 have already graduated and most have gotten jobs in the industry. There's also a Mexico City location and another one that will open in South Africa next month. In addition to this culinary giving back, Bottura is passionate about food waste as you can see in the video below:


At Milan's Word Expo last year, Bottura converted an old theater into the Refettorio Abrosiano, which brought 65 chefs to cook extra food for hungry people. The success of that project, which got 15 tons of food out of the waste stream and into the tummies of those who needed it, inspired him to team up with Brazilian chef David Hertz, a slow-food advocate who has done similar job-training projects. Hertz and Bottura launched the Rio initiative, called Refettorio Gastromotiva, quickly raising $250,000 to set up a kitchen in time for the Olympics. Along with volunteer chefs from around the world, the Refettorio is able to offer about 5,000 meals a day to people from the city's infamous favelas, or shanty towns.

"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."

Rio isn't the only place where "food rescue" is happening these days. In the Netherlands, a restaurant called Instock "... creates dishes with food that would otherwise go to waste," according to the site.

Refettorio Gastromotiva will continue throughout the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, and then will live on as a socially-minded business after the Games are over by feeding the hungry and providing job training for future cooks, bakers and waitstaff.

Something to keep an eye on: Bottura is working on a similar project in the Bronx — and it looks like Robert De Niro may be involved.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.