Robert Egger: Food, Felons and Philanthropy

Robert Egger

Robert Egger is a social entrepreneur, award-winning author, and nonprofit leader. He opened the DC Central Kitchen in 1989, pioneering the concept of America’s first “community kitchen.” Now an $11 million a year, self-sustaining social enterprise, “The Kitchen” has produced over 26 million meals and has helped 1,000 men and women gain full-time employment.

Today, Robert serves as the Founder and President of the nonprofit L.A. Kitchen, which recovers fresh produce to fuel a culinary arts job training program for those coming out of foster care and incarceration.

At this Conversations, Robert told his fascinating story and shared future-forward perspectives on disruptive innovation and the nonprofit sector. He proposed that philanthropy isn’t really about service; it’s about empowerment. In order to truly help communities, he explained, we need to give their citizens more than a warm meal—we need to give them sustainable, real-world tools to elevate themselves out of poverty.

As his work and nonprofit expanded, Robert became keenly aware that the aging Baby Boomer population would soon require intensive care and services—a need that our current healthcare and societal infrastructures simply aren’t ready to meet. Noting that Los Angeles has one of the highest concentrations of impoverished seniors in the U.S., Robert decided to move his philanthropic efforts to L.A. to help tackle this community-wide issue. Robert sees a huge opportunity to provide seniors with resources and healthy, “strong” food, and predicts that aiding the baby boom generation will demand the attention of a variety of industries—from technology to design to nonprofits—in the next few decades.