Food for the soul
Restaurant owner Robin Salzer surpasses 35,000 free meals served in three years
By Carl Kozlowski 12/12/2013
One of the most innovative hunger-relief programs in the country celebrated its third anniversary on Dec. 4 when the Pasadena Hot Meals Program provided full dinners to needy residents during its weekly event at the Jackie Robinson Center.
A full house of about 100 area residents enjoyed a meal of barbeque chicken, macaroni and cheese, ravioli, salad and dessert, all served by members of the West Pasadena Residents Association and the San Rafael Neighborhood Association.
One of those free meals marked the 35,000th served since the program was founded in December 2010 by local restaurateur Robin Salzer, whose Robin’s Wood Fire BBQ supplies the vast majority of the food, in addition to preparing it for attendees. Salzer also oversees a Thursday night edition of the program which has been held weekly at the Villa Parke Community Center since April 2012, and has served an estimated 19,000 meals.
“It’s amazing that we started this three years ago and have sustained it through some of the worst economic times that we’ve ever seen,” says Salzer. “There’s so much food out there, every city in the country can do programs like this and eradicate hunger. I truly believe hunger is not hopeless, but the worst enemy is apathy. Hunger is debilitating. You can go without food a day and a half and you become weak, lethargic. Can you imagine people who go without three square meals a day for any length of time? We’ve lived up to our mission statement: rebuilding respect one meal at a time in our community.”
Salzer was sure to thank not only the volunteer groups helping to dish out the dinners but also other local restaurants, such as Mijares Mexican Restaurant, El Portal Restaurant and Pita Pita, which have helped on occasion. He also regularly receives extra food supplies from US Food Service and Rose Bowl concessionaires Sodexo-Magic.
“It’s important that two established groups in arguably the best neighborhoods in the city have board members taking the time to serve others who likely have a little less than they have,” says Salzer. “Often these groups call us offering to help, but I’d like to see areas like Hastings Ranch send groups out. We’re all in this together in Pasadena.”