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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs