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Bill Bracken of Bracken's Kitchen recognized as the Rams' 13th pLAymaker honoree for work addressing food insecurity in Orange County.
Bill Bracken of Bracken's Kitchen recognized as the Rams' 13th pLAymaker honoree for work addressing food insecurity in Orange County.

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – During the financial crisis experienced by the United States from 2008-10, nationally-renowned chef Bill Bracken saw friends who were previously financially sound lose their jobs and struggle, with food the first thing cut from their budgets.

Witnessing those struggles, especially with one of life's most basic needs, was when Bracken first felt called to feed people. Then In December 2011, Bracken unexpectedly found himself unemployed and experiencing first-hand what he witnessed his friends go through a couple years earlier.

Seeking out a way to leverage his talent and skills to those in need, he eventually came up with the concept of a food truck to bring those meals directly to them, and formed Orange County-based Bracken's Kitchen in March 2013. The 35-year veteran of the hospitality business' continued work to combat food insecurity through his nonprofit organization is why he was recognized as the Rams' 13th pLAymaker honoree.

"Considering the Rams were my very first football team that I came to love many years ago, there's a lot of history there," Bracken said. "And we know that the NFL does obviously a lot of work, as do the Rams, when it comes to hunger relief and just helping people, so we're truly, truly honored to be sitting here today and find out that we have been chosen. Wow. Kind of speechless."

Feeding the community is a key pillar to the mission of Bracken's Kitchen – which Bracken calls a "community impact organization" – but not the only one. It also does food rescue and culinary training.

The food rescue program recovers leftover cuisine and turns it into nutritious meals for those who need it most, while the culinary training provides hands-on training in a live kitchen environment to give young students the skills needed for culinary opportunities in the hospitality industry.

"We're committed to rescuing, repurposing, and restoring both food and lives," Bracken said. "What that really means in simple terms is we get to go to work in the kitchen every day doing what we love to do most – cook tasty, nutritious meals for people who really need it. And when you look at the massive amount of food waste that happens every day in our country, we're able to keep food out of the landfill, we're able to take students and offer them culinary training and a path out of poverty. We're truly harnessing the power of food to try to deliver change in people's lives, change in people's lives."

When Bracken thinks about what inspire change means to him, he goes back to something he shared on social media Wednesday morning – "live a life that matters."

"We live in a world that's more torn apart and broken down, there's more people that just struggle out there," Bracken said. "So inspiring change is more important I think today than it ever has been. And just to add a twist for it – inspire positive change, because there's a lot of people out there that will inspire negative change. But I mean, without change without inspiring others to grow and be better tomorrow than the other day, where do we go? How do we how do we improve the world that we live in today? So I think it's really important that everyone finds out how they can inspire change in their lives. Because we all have a stage or a platform. Whether it's a small one or a big one, we all have the ability to inspire change – whether it's in the lives of our family, or loved ones or the neighbor down the street, or anybody. So if the world all committed to inspiring a little bit of change, we'd be in a better place."

Inspiring change in one's own community, meanwhile, can start with something as simple as showing kindness, according to Bracken.

"Being kind I think is the easiest way to inspire change," Bracken said. "We are so busy going about our lives, sometimes it's easier to slow down. Whether it's just waving to the person you pass on the street, allowing someone to actually yield in front you on the 405 freeway might be life changing for someone. Actually talking to the person at the cash register or the barista. Just being kind. I mean, there's obviously a whole lot more we can do, but if we start with the basics, it's not so overwhelming. Try and make a difference in someone's life, because we never know what a person is going through. It's that old snowball effect – if we can do one thing to someone that's positive and loving today, and just keep doing that and others do that, I think right in our neighborhoods we can start and make a big difference."

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