Ex-cons at LA Kitchen Feed the Hungry with Food Waste

“Neither food nor people should ever go to waste.”

This is the motto of the LA Kitchen, a project that recovers healthy, local food from the waste stream to feed the hungry and gives unemployed adults—particularly adults exiting prison as well as foster kids aging out of the system—culinary training. The meals they create are distributed to Los Angeles' most vulnerable populations, with a focus on the elderly. 

A 20,000-square-foot processing hub for donated food, the LA Kitchen recovers food from local farmers and wholesale food companies. It was created in 2013 by author, speaker, activist Robert Egger and is a win-win-win as perfectly-good food is diverted from the landfill, the culinary students receive training and valuable employment skills, and the hungry receive healthy meals. The LA Kitchen model is open source so other organizations can copy it.

Students at the LA Kitchen receive culinary training and help fight food waste.

The project is rooted in a deep commitment to empowering people and upholds these values:

  • Neither food nor people should ever go to waste. We recognize the potential of the community’s existing resources and are dedicated to revealing their power to nourish and uplift.
  • All people have potential, and every person has a role in strengthening the community. We will engage all volunteers, staff, and students in meaningful, impactful work.
  • Hunger isn’t about food. We will work to address the root causes of poverty, employing a variety of dynamic approaches to nourish the community.
  • Programs should empower individuals and inspire independence. We will only partner with organizations that share these values, providing them with nutritious meals to help achieve their mission, strengthen their clients, and uplift the community.
  • Our impact will not be measured in pounds moved or meals served. We will employ nuanced metrics to provoke deeper dialogue about food, hunger and poverty.
  • Wealth derived from the community should be reinvested locally. We use our resources to strengthen the local economy and invest in the future of our employees.
  • We will not apply shallow overhead practices. We will challenge status quo, providing all employees a living wage and opportunities to invest in their future retirement.
  • Investments should be made in both the present and the future. We will promote intergenerational programming that empowers all individuals, young and old alike.
  • Action should be paired with advocacy. We will use our resources to educate and promote policy ideas that elevate issues and mitigate future need.
  • Transparency is an essential part of improving programs. We will operate and make decisions in full view of the community we serve.
  • Smart solutions should be shared. We will be open-source, sharing our model and welcoming all visitors.

The LA Kitchen is rooted in empowering people.

For Egger, the LA Kitchen is a chance to engage and empower people who need a second chance.

“Wasting food is a tragedy,” he told Triple Pundit, “but the real tragedy is that we’re wasting people.”

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Photos: LA Kitchen. Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter

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