Pasadena Hot Meals Program Celebrates Seven Years and 125,000 Meals Served

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6:23 am | December 14, 2017


Robin Salzer, owner of Robin’s Woodfire BBQ and founder of the Pasadena Hot Meal Program, has provided free hot meals – 125,000 of them – for low-income and homeless residents for seven years and marked this milestone by serving even more hot meals to the needy at the Jackie Robinson Community Center last night.

Salzer was helped by a small platoon of civic, business and community leaders who donned caps and gloves to help serve the dinner.

“Homelessness and hunger go hand in hand and the numbers of people in need in Pasadena seems to be tragically increasing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could eradicate this problem in our town through a collaboration of business, church and city leaders?” Salzer said before the event. “One night of hot meals isn’t enough to stem the tide of hunger but it helps.”

Since its inception in 2010, the Hot Meal Program has evolved from a simple vision to help neighbors in need to a weekly event in which between 100 and 200 hungry individuals on average are served balanced meals at the center.

The program started as a collaboration between Salzer and another Pasadena businessman, Walter Jackson, who spent years visiting stranger’s homes as a locksmith and a volunteer delivering meals to the homebound. Jackson passed away in February, 2016 and a minute of silence remembrance in his honor was observed Wednesday night.

Salzer was inspired to create the program after visiting homes of residents while campaigning in his 2007 bid to become a District 1 City Councilmember. Some constituents would invite him into their homes to talk, usually the kitchen, and in offering him something to drink, he observed that refrigerators and cabinets of some of the residents were poorly stocked.

“I just knew there was a need. I truly believe that in a city like Pasadena — which arguably has more restaurants per capita than any other in the U.S. — it is unconscionable that any resident should go hungry — ever,” said Salzer about the city’s 560 plus restaurants.

Salzer continual reinvestment in the community over the years has been reciprocated by residents, businesses, and organizations. They have helped sustain Robin’s Woodfire BBQ throughout the years as well.

“The commitment of people supporting me over the years has really motivated me to pay it forward—to give back to the community. If you can improve the quality of life for somebody even but one day, you’re a better person for it, you’re a better neighborhood for it, and we’re a better city for it,” said Salzer.

Salzer said he invests his personal resources and the program also receives help to continue, thanks to strong relationships with the Rose Bowl’s main concession supplier Sodexo Magic in addition to Restaurant Depot.

“It’s truly a rainbow coalition of community. I think the beauty of it is that it’s at a community center. Anybody and everybody is welcome,” said Salzer.

Mayor Terry Tornek, who helped award winning tickets in the evening’s raffle, praised and congratulated Salzer.

Among the servers last night were two City Councilmembers, Gene Masuda and John Kennedy, as well as Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez and Lt. Jason Clawson, Fire Chief Bertral Washington, Jaylene Moseley of the Flintridge Center, Tom Seifert, Phlunte Riddle, Phil Hosp, Maria Tornek and many others.

Salzer said of the program, “One night of hot meals isn’t enough to stem the tide of hunger, but it helps. With more restaurants per capita than any city in the United States, with more nonprofits per capita than any city in the United States, with resources such as JPL, Caltech, Parsons Engineering, Alibaba and Idealab we should be smart enough and giving enough to figure out a solution.”