[HuffPo] Korean man leaves Wall Street job to start homeless feeding non-profit

February 2, 2015


RLC founding team Robert Lee (right), Louisa Chen (center) and Paul Sun (left). (Courtesy of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine)

RLC founding team Robert Lee (right), Louisa Chen (center) and Paul Sun (left). (Courtesy of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine)


The son of two Korean immigrant parents who once struggled to make ends meet, Robert Lee understood as a young child what it’s like to feel hungry. He eventually went on to work at a hedge fund to make sure his parents would never have issues putting food on the table again, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that being true to his roots required serving others in need.

Lee launched Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a nonprofit organization that targets both the prevention of quality food waste and putting an end to hunger, in New York City in the summer of 2013. Since its debut, the social entrepreneurship venture has partnered with more than 30 local restaurants and markets to secure food donations, and built a volunteer network of more than 1,400 people to hand-deliver donations to homeless shelters across the city. So far, the organization has saved — and then shared — more than 45,000 pounds of food, at the cost of just 10 cents per pound.

Lee, 24, experienced the importance of food waste prevention early in life — from a practical standpoint as well as a cultural one. Prior to his parents’ move to the United States, Lee’s father was a civil engineer and his mother was a banker. But after his family moved, the language barrier and different opportunities available in Queens led his father to begin working in supermarket management, while his mother became a homemaker. The couple placed a high value on their two sons’ educations, at times struggling to keep enough food on the table for the family of four and refusing to let what they brought home go to waste.