Robert L.E. Egger
Robert L.E. Egger is founder and president of the DC Central Kitchen, where excess food from hospitality businesses is transformed from potential waste into meals — and jobs — for those struggling to feed themselves.
“Traditional charity is based on the redemption of the giver, not the liberation of the reliever.”
A decade deep in the nightclub industry, Robert L.E. Egger was volunteering doing food distribution for the homeless when he realized some fundamental flaws in the system: the food was costly and it did nothing to actually get people out of the bread line. He had intimate knowledge about how much food gets thrown away by businesses like those he worked with, so he developed a plan to gather it all and transform it into meals: the DC Central Kitchen.
Egger created a model that also trained and employed the very homeless people that were relying on the service. It’s a program “designed to solve a problem,” where charity models merely “mitigate the symptoms.” Through the Culinary job Training program, homeless people (as well as the unemployed and underemployed) are given both meals and the opportunity to provide their own through employment — in the very hospitality industry whose donations provide the DC Central Kitchen’s food supply.
More than two decades later, Egger’s efforts have led to the distribution of more than 23 million meals and helped over 800 men and women gain full-time employment. Continuously working to identify opportunities for more innovation, he is creating offshoot programs such as Fresh Start [link] and the Campus Kitchens Project [link], all of which have inspired numerous kitchens around the country to utilize his model in overcoming hunger and homelessness simultaneously.