Every year we waste about 96 billion pounds of food in the United States. What is even more disturbing is that 36 million Americans suffer from hunger every day. Frustrated by the wasted food and lives he saw in his community, Robert Egger found a solution to break the cycle of poverty. Robert has built one the country's most innovative programs — he not only feeds the homeless, he also teaches them to cook so they can get jobs in the restaurant industry.How it Began — More Than Just Leftovers
Robert Egger was a nightclub manager leading what he thought was a full life until he reluctantly volunteered to help the homeless. "I went out one night with a church group that serves men and women who sleep outside. I literally had to be dragged kicking and screaming out on this truck. And it was really an eye opener for me."
To Robert, it seemed the system of passing out food every night to the same people wasn't solving the problem. "It just seemed so endless and frankly pointless — that was almost a slavery that I just couldn't tolerate. I thought, 'I work in a business that throws away so much food and I work in an industry that has jobs. There's got to be some way to put these two things together.' The idea was so incredibly simple: the restaurants could donate food and we could use that food to teach homeless people how to cook."
Robert tried to get other social agencies to consider his idea and was asked over and over again, if he thought it was such a good idea, why didn't he do it himself—so he did. Robert started the DC Central Kitchen in 1988, he says, "to make a difference. I don't want to just give away free food. I what to see how food can make a real difference in our community... That's what we're after."The Solution — Break the Cycle
The DC Central Kitchen serves homeless and low-income individuals, families, and children. Robert says, "We're always trying to think about how can we use food so it's not just a band-aid but a way that's really helping someone up in a permanent way. I always tell people, 'if you want to help a kid, get their parent a decent job.'"
The Food Service Job Training Program teaches people living in shelters and/or on welfare certified food handling techniques and life skills. Since 1990, 275 people have graduated.
Robert says, "Ultimately, what we really hope people leave here with is a sense of motivation, self-esteem, perseverance."Successful Programming
Seven days a week, 365 days a year, DC Central Kitchen picks up two tons of donated food and prepares 3,000 meals. On a given week they supply food to about 140 different non-profits including homeless shelters, senior programs, after-school programs, and drug clinics. They train and place about 100 men and women in food service jobs annually.
Recognized by President and Hillary Clinton as "turning the traditional approach to poverty and homelessness on its head," DC Central Kitchen, Inc. is used a national model for food recovery programs. Visit www.dccentralkitchen.org to find out how to start a similar program in your community.Check in with DC Central Kitchen
—see what they've accomplished with the Use Your Life Award!