Greece: Social Kitchen – the Other Person
In times of difficulty, one man’s effort to feed the poor has evolved into a dynamic community movement.
Athens, Greece – Konstantinos Polychronopoulos, 51 years old, is the founder of “Social Kitchen – the Other Person”, a communal movement with a main goal of providing free food for all in need.
For 25 years, Polychronopoulos worked as a marketing and communications specialist. But in September 2009, he lost his job. Failing to find work for over two years, he was forced to move back into his mother’s house. His mother was receiving $660 pension a month, of which she paid $341 towards rent, and the two struggled daily.
In December 2011, he was shocked by an incident at the local flea market involving two children fighting over discarded, spoiled food and the apathy of the passers-by.
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The very next day, he prepared sandwiches and handed them out to poor people scavenging for food in the trash. At first they were hesitant, but when he ate with them they changed their attitude. The idea came to him to cook in the streets for everyone, especially the socially vulnerable.
He hadn’t intended to start a charity. He simply wanted to provide dignity and offer a meal to the hungry from one human being to another.
Borrowing cooking equipment, pots and pans, he cooked for the first time on Kallidromiou Street in downtown Athens, without a penny in his pocket.
He went around and asked for a potato here, a zucchini there. In puzzlement, the merchants asked him, “Are you going to cook one potato?”
“One from you, one from another, I will gather them, cook them and we eat all together,” was Polychronopoulos’ reply. “Here, take 50 potatoes,” would be the response.
Slowly, people started bringing supplies, and soon, there were volunteers that offered help. The movement evolved, acquiring partnership with food suppliers, a vehicle and a storage building for the food. And, since January 2014 there have been clothing donations and a shelter for people who are in need of a bath and sleep for a night.
Polychronopoulos has recently moved his operation to Lesbos island where there is a refugee crisis. He plans to stay as long as needed with the hope that “others will be inspired to take similar actions”.