Statistics from the UN Refugee Agency show that over five million Syrians have fled their war torn homeland since 2011. They are now refugees in neeighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Some of them made it to western countries in Europe and America. As a result the world is facing the biggest refugee crisis of all time.
Entrepreneur Ahmad Ashkar thinks his mom’s falafel recipes can help solve the refugee crisis, and he’s not kidding.
Ashkar is on the advisory board of the United Nations Development Program and was named Esquire magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” for his work launching socially conscious companies in over 100 countries. He also is the founder and CEO of the Hult Prize Foundation, a nonprofit encouraging social entrepreneurship through a startup competition that awards $1 million to the winner. Huffington Post has called the competition “The Nobel Prize for Students.”
Speaking about how the Falafel Inc. concept was born 2 years ago, Ashkar said “We had a refugee challenge where we asked entrepreneurs to create companies that could help with the refugee crisis,” and continued “I had this refugee thing on my mind and started to look through pictures. When you type ‘falafel’ into Google, refugee pictures come up.” That’s because falafel stands are the main food source inside Syrian refugee camps. “I want to use falafel to help solve the refugee crisis.” He said.
To speed things up Ashkar used a former restaurant location in Georgetown: “Since we’re taking over an existing restaurant, we just had to put lipstick on it, make it look like a falafel stand inside a refugee camp,” he says.
Falafel Inc is opening today in Georgetown at 1210 Potomac St. NW. The restaurant is only 800 square feet and features refugee images on its walls to raise awareness. It will be open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight serving a small menu with falafel or hummus sandwiches ($3 each), a falafel salad bowl ($4), and an array of sides like tabouli salad and za’atar fries ($3 each). Middle Eastern soft drinks like strawberry Barbican and Vimto ($3 each) are also available. The falafel and hummus are recipes from Ashkar’s mother.