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.
TEXT SIZE - +


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 Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid