Robert is the Founder and President of L.A. Kitchen, which recovers fresh fruits and vegetables to fuel a culinary arts job training program for men and women coming out of foster care and older men and women returning from incarceration. He is also the CEO of Strong Food, L.A. Kitchen’s social enterprise business, which employs graduates of the L.A. Kitchen training program, and competes for food service contracts to serve healthy meals to seniors in Los Angeles.
Robert pioneered this model during his 24 year tenure as the President of the DC Central Kitchen, the country’s first “community kitchen”, where food donated by hospitality businesses and farms is used to fuel a nationally recognized culinary arts job training program. Since opening in 1989, the Kitchen (which is a $11 million a year, self-sustaining, social enterprise) has produced over 30 million meals and helped 1,500 men and women gain full time employment. The Kitchen operates its own revenue generating business, Fresh Start Catering, as well as the Campus Kitchens Project, which coordinates similar recycling/meal programs in over 45 colleges or high school based kitchens.
Robert was included in the NonProfit Times list of the “50 Most Powerful and Influential” nonprofit leaders from 2006-2009. He was the recipient of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s 2007 “Lifetime Achievement” award and the 2004 James Beard Foundation “Humanitarian of the Year” award. He has been named an Oprah Angel, a Washingtonian of the Year, a Point of Light, a Food Hero by Food Tank, a REAL Food Innovator by the US Healthful Food Council, and one of the Ten Most Caring People in America by the Caring Institute. He is also a 15-gallon blood donor to the American Red Cross.
Robert speaks throughout the country and internationally on the subjects of hunger, sustainability, nonprofit political engagement and social enterprise. He brings to the committee 25 years of experience building cross sector partnership that reduce wasted food and wasted human potential. He is a passionate changemaker that provides mentorship, guidance, valuable introductions, knowledge about the non-profit sector, feedback and a never ending dose of enthusiasm and inspiration.
“Because I believe in the power of food to liberate, uplift and empower”