News / USA

Philanthropist Helps Thousands Cope with Hunger, Unemployment

D.C. Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger says, he does not do charity work -- he empowers people. His organization provides 1.5 million free meals a year, offers job training and partners with local restaurants. But VOA's Daniela Schrier has more with our latest installment of Making a Difference.

Robert Egger speaks with one of the kitchen volunteers responsible for providing meals for local after school programs, shelters, and drug treatment centers.
Robert Egger speaks with one of the kitchen volunteers responsible for providing meals for local after school programs, shelters, and drug treatment centers.


This busy kitchen prepares thousands of meals a day for after school programs, homeless shelters and drug treatment centers across Washington.  But D.C. Central Kitchen founder and President Robert Egger says he has a broader agenda.  "Let's not just feed people, let's liberate people," he says.

Egger says it started 20 years ago when he was in the nightclub business.  One evening, while helping a volunteer group distribute food, he says he was shocked to learn how much it cost.

"I thought, 'Restaurants throw out a mountain of food.  You know someone should get that food and use it.  You could feed more people better food for less money,'" he explains.

So Robert Egger started his own operation to feed the hungry.  He also started a culinary training program to teach job skills to those in need.  On a recent graduation day, Egger says, every student had a job.    

He says the donated restaurant food saves the city of Washington, D.C. $5 million a year that can be used for other programs.

"So the drug treatment program, for example, can get more people in and get them clean and ready for programs like this because we do the meals," says Egger. 

While slicing melons, chef Jerald Thomas explains that he joined the culinary training program after recovering from alcoholism.  Now, 10 years later, he runs the kitchen.

"This is a worldwide problem.  And you look at Robert, how he started DC Central kitchen in 1989,  he started feeding 150 people," he recalls. "Who would have thought now we're feeding 4,500 in 2010."

The effort draws on a lot of volunteers -- 14,000 a year -- who slice and dice, and help out however they are needed.  

Egger urges everyone to look beyond the idea of charity. 

"In America every year, we spend almost $300 billion on charity," notes Egger.  "Yet our prisons are full; there are still people on the street.  There're just as many poor kids as there were 40 years ago.  So while it looks good, sounds good, feels good, it hasn't really broken through."

"I had incarceration, joblessness,"  adds Ellis.

William Ellis has spent most of this day grating carrots.  He is training to be a chef.

"We deal with a lot of things -- from job skills to life skills to coping with addictions," he explains.

Robert Egger says his organization is successful because it upends traditional methods of philanthropy.

"We use food that was thrown away, people our society undervalued, volunteers who wanted to be part of something powerful -- a kitchen that was underutilized -- we just reorganized things that were already here," he says.   

All of this culminates in a healthy meal for those in need, says a worker at the adult education center Living Wages in Washington.  "It's been a great a great support to us to keep this program going."

Robert Egger says the food is working as he intended -- to strengthen bodies and empower minds.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs