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Ninety-Year-Old 'Chef of the Poor' Cooks for Rome's Homeless

Dino Impagliazzo, Rome's 90-year-old 'chef of the poor', stirs a soup which he cooks for the homeless living in the city and outside the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, January 18, 2020
90-Year-Old 'Chef of the Poor' Cooks for Rome's Homeless
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Dino Impagliazzo cuts onions like a professional cook. The Italian man makes a great vegetable soup, but most of his longtime “customers” can't even pay for a piece of bread.

Working with the energy of a much younger man, the 90-year-old, Impagliazzo is known as Rome’s “chef of the poor.”

Three days a week, he sets out to gather food with other volunteers. They are all part of RomAmoR (RomeLove), a group that he started. The volunteers go to markets and bakeries to collect donated food.

The other four days of the week, RomAmoR volunteers cook food and serve it in different places across the city.

Such efforts help Impagliazzo live out his dream of feeding the homeless.

It all began 15 years ago when a homeless man at a Rome train station asked Impagliazzo for money to buy a sandwich.

“I realized that perhaps instead of buying one sandwich, making some sandwiches for him and for the friends who were there would be better, and thus began our adventure,” he said.

Dino Impagliazzo, Rome's 90-year-old 'chef of the poor', greets volunteers as they make sandwiches for the homeless living in the city.
Dino Impagliazzo, Rome's 90-year-old 'chef of the poor', greets volunteers as they make sandwiches for the homeless living in the city.

On Saturday nights, a RomAmoR group sets up in an area protected from bad weather outside St. Peter’s Square. This is where they feed the growing number of homeless who sleep in the area. It is also where Pope Francis has opened spaces for medical and bathing places for the homeless.

Impagliazzo once worked for Italy’s social security department. He launched his work to feed the needy with a handful of other retired people.

They quickly went from making sandwiches to cooking more complex hot meals. They first started at home. Later, they cooked in a convent, a building that houses religious women.

Now there are more than 300 RomAmoR volunteers, both young and old. They use their own fully equipped kitchen.

Impagliazzo recently received an award from Italian President Sergio Mattarella. He was recognized as a “hero of our times.” He never dreamed his idea would become so successful, or create such good will.

On a recent Saturday night near the Vatican -- where the Pope lives -- four extra volunteers showed up.

“I am happy because we never tell anyone ‘we don’t need you tonight’,” he said. “They stay among us.”

I’m Anne Ball.

Emily G. Roe wrote this story for Reuters. Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

How do people help feed the hungry in your city? What do you think of this story? Write to us in the comments section below.


Words in This Story

chef – n. a professional cook who usually is in charge of a kitchen in a restaurant

sandwich – n. two pieces of bread with something (such as meat, peanut butter, or other food) between them

realize – v. to understand or become aware of

adventure – n. an exciting or dangerous experience

kitchen – n. a room in which food is cooked