People Love Food at US Falafel Shop that Helps Refugees

14 July, 2017

Customers at a Washington DC falafel shop are praising the tasty food as well as the owner's efforts to help refugees.

Falafel Inc. is located in the Georgetown area, one of the city's most expensive places to eat and live. Many people cannot believe they can buy a falafel sandwich at the shop for $3.00.

The shop opened just two months ago. It stays very busy, especially around midday when workers in the area are buying lunch.

But the shop is different from most others. The owner, Ahmad Ashkar, gives some of the money he earns to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). For every $10 Falafel Inc. makes, he donates about 50 cents to the U.N. agency. This is enough to feed one refugee for a day.

Ashkar told VOA that while there are many ways to help refugees, he found a way that works well with his business.

"We chose falafel for two reasons. One, because falafel stands are prevalent around refugee camps around the world, it's actually the main food in most refugee camps. Because it's so cheap, and it's affordable, and it's highly nutritious. Second is my personal love and passion for falafel."

The idea to help refugees by selling falafels is welcomed by customers like Nick Wright.

"I think what they are doing with refugees is a very good cause and I support it."

Lunch buyer Roland Spier agrees.

"The food is delicious and hearing about the owner's story before we went in was really inspiring. And I think it makes the food all that more enjoyable."

Falafel Inc. owner Ahmad Ashkar talks with customers outside the shop in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood. (J.Soh/VOA)
Falafel Inc. owner Ahmad Ashkar talks with customers outside the shop in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood. (J.Soh/VOA)

Ashkar grew up on the falafels cooked by his Palestinian mother. And he makes them exactly the same way for his shop. Since the shop only makes falafels and small sides, it keeps costs low.

Donating 50 cents might not sound like a lot, but the money adds up. The shop has already donated enough money to feed almost 10,000 refugees.

Ashkar said he is looking into opening up more falafel shops around the world. He has a goal of at least 100 franchises, which would allow him to feed about 1 million refugees a year.

But he wants to do more than just feed refugees. He also wants to employ them in shops and eventually give them a chance to be more than a worker.

"We're looking at a place where the refugee can actually become, after 24 months of employment, an actual owner of the stores themselves."

Ashkar said every day the number of worldwide refugees seems to grow. So he thinks expanding his business is one way to help solve a problem that he sees getting worse before it gets better.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

June Soh reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Do you like falafels? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

customer – n. person who buys goods or services from a business

sandwich n. two or more pieces of bread with a filling in the middle

prevalentadj. occurring in large amounts

cheap adj. low cost

passion – n. strong belief in or commitment to something

delicious adj. very tasty

inspiring – adj. causing someone to want to do something

franchise n. the right to sell a company's goods or services in a particular area