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Neither Food Nor People Should Ever Go to Waste!
|LA Kitchen is featured in Global Harvest Initiative’s 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®): Building Sustainable Breadbaskets to be released at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 14th at 11:00 AM Central Time. To attend the event or watch online, register here.|
Interview with Robert Egger, Founder DC Central Kitchen and LA Kitchen
Founded in 1989, DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) is the premiere model for reducing hunger with rescued food, training unemployed adults for culinary careers, serving healthy school meals and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise. In 2013, DCCK founder and president, Robert Egger, moved to Los Angeles at the invitation of the city’s mayor to launch LA Kitchen (LAK).
GHI: Robert, we are so pleased to be featuring the work of LA Central Kitchen in our upcoming 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Building Sustainable Breadbaskets. Describe for us the work you are doing at LAK Kitchen and the people you are serving?
Robert: LAK has a multipronged mission of reducing food waste and unemployment while combating hunger. The primary components of the model include food rescue (Reclaim LA), culinary job training (Empower LA), volunteerism (Engage LA), and food distribution (Nourish LA). We also have a social enterprise, Strong Food, which generated funding for LAK by providing food service and producing value-added wholesale and retail products from locally sources fruits and vegetables.
GHI: Among the many feeding, food rescue and employment programs that are serving the Los Angeles community, what makes LAK unique?
Robert: What makes LAK stand out is our focus on fresh produce, vegetarian and vegan offerings, both in the foods we serve and in the products we produce. We also place an emphasis on older adults. In fact, the founding partner of LAK is the AARP Foundation as part of their commitment to raise awareness and support policies and programs for older adult struggling with hunger and food insecurity. Fourteen percent of US households are food insecure, but more than 17 percent of Americans over the age of 40 are food insecure. This is an underserved population that needs our help.
GHI: How many people have been through the culinary job training program so far, and what results have to you seen to date?
Robert: We have only been operating in LA for two years, but already we have graduated three culinary arts classes. Participants were unemployed and at-risk youth and older adults – often considered “unemployable.” So far we have a 75 percent job placement rate!
GHI: Can you give us an example of one of your success stories?
Robert: There are so many already. People getting their first paychecks in decades, or getting raises and first apartments. My favorite is Theresa Farthing, our first hire, who graduated in Class One. She’s older (like me) and has really found her calling in our new 20,000 sq. ft. kitchen, as both a lead cook, but more importantly, as a guide to the students who follow. I look out my office window, into the production kitchen, and I can see her speaking with students, laughing and showing them the ropes. I love watching her lead others through “the door” that is L.A. Kitchen.
GHI: What are your goals for LAK over the next few years?
Robert: We’d really like to be one of America’s premiere social enterprises, and L.A.’s “go to” source for super healthy meals and snacks. But most importantly, we’d like to be an international source of ideas about how we can feed the growing ranks of older citizens who will want, and need healthy meals to stay engaged, strong and active. All my businesses are open source, so we hope to be able to inspire and support similar efforts throughout the world. Finally, we’d like to be a strong source of advocacy on behalf of aging Americans. This will include policy work, but also challenging Americans to see that all food has power, and all people have potential. Wrinkled food, wrinkled people…nothing should be wasted!!