Combating Hunger, Creating Opportunity

DC Central Kitchen is America's leader in reducing hunger with recycled food, training unemployed adults for culinary careers, serving healthy school meals, and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise.
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DC Central Kitchen

Monthly Archives: July 2012

, July 31st, 2012

Welcoming Janine Cowling Back to the Nutrition Lab

Janine Cowling is a recent graduate of DC Central Kitchen’s 88th Culinary Job Training class. As a CJT student, Janine interned for two weeks at the Nutrition Lab. When we profiled her at that time, she told us she’d like to come back to work at the Lab after graduation. Last week she joined us as a member of our transportation staff. 

Tell us about your job search: 

I had a couple of really good interviews at restaurants around town for server and hostess positions, but wanted to work in a place where I’d be able to continue using the skills I had developed in CJT.

Then Chris Lucas, the transportation manager at DCCK saw my application and told me he’d call me in to interview for a driver position; that was the happiest moment for me. When I was offered the job and found out I’d be at the Lab, I was thrilled to get to come back and work with all the beautiful people I had interned with.

Tell us a little bit about your day as a driver: 

I deliver meals each day to the shelters at DC General Hospital and Covenant House, which is also a shelter over in Southeast. In the morning I take out four hundred breakfast meals. Then I come back and get ready to deliver two hundred lunches. The fun thing is that I’m responsible for getting together all of the stuff that I take out on my deliveries. I also help out with whatever else is needed around the kitchen.

What is the most interesting thing that has happened since you started working at the Lab?

Well, I started working last Saturday, and the next day I helped out with a catering event for about 2,000 people at the AIDS March on the National Mall. It was really busy down there. I helped to set up all the food and utensils in multiple tents. I know Wyclef Jean was there and we prepared his meal. They enjoyed it too. I watched them eat and it felt good to watch and know that they enjoyed it and appreciated DC Central Kitchen.

Are any of your other classmates hired along with you?

Yes, Adrian was hired as a utility worker at the Nutrition Lab. Carolyn will be working in the DC Public Schools and Erica is also over at the Lab, doing production.

We congratulate and welcome Janine, Adrian, Carolyn and Erica!

, July 30th, 2012

Your matching gift builds a new culinary classroom

Behind the bubbling kettles and busy production line of our main kitchen is a recently vacated 500 square foot room. You can help us transform this space into a state-of-the-art culinary classroom for the unemployed men and women we’re getting off the streets and putting back to work.

Donate today and your gift is matched.

It’s crucial that our students receive hands-on experience with the culinary tools they’ll use in their future careers. Moving from our crowded main kitchen to a room with special training stations and modern culinary equipment will allow students to access the tools and knowledge they need to compete for higher-paying culinary jobs.

And this goal is in reach, thanks to the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.They will match up to $20,000 of individual contributions made to our new culinary classroom.

Help us obtain the $40,000 required to complete this critical renovation by making a donation today!

Together, we can help folks find good jobs in tough times. I hope you’ll invest in our powerful program and new classroom.

Culinary Classroom Rendering

A Rendering of the New Culinary Classroom

Culinary Classroom Unfinished

The 500 Sq. Foot Space where we’re building the culinary classroom, under construction. Help us finish this work!

, July 27th, 2012

Truck Farm 2012: Growing Up

Over the course of the summer, the hot DC sun has done wonders for our Truck Farm as it grows in the middle of a parking lot in downtown. Here are a few photos showing how the Truck has changed over the past few months. This is my last post as the 2012 Summer Truck Farm intern, but look forward to more great posts from the other Truck Farmers in the weeks to come!

Truck Farm at Walker Jones Elementary School, May 23rd.
Truck Farm at Walker Jones Elementary School, May 23rd.
Truck Farm at the USDA People's Garden Farmers Market, June 1st.
Truck Farm at the USDA People’s Garden Farmers Market, June 1st.
Truck Farm at the USDA People's Garden Farmers Market, June 15th.
Truck Farm at the USDA People’s Garden Farmers Market, June 15th.
Truck Farm in the DCCK parking lot, July 5th.
Truck Farm in the DCCK parking lot, July 5th.
Truck Farm at the USDA People's Garden Farmers Market, July 27th.
Truck Farm at the USDA People’s Garden Farmers Market, July 27th.

, July 26th, 2012

Going Gleaning

An important aspect of DC Central Kitchen’s work is our dedication to food recycling. The leftover food that we recover and repurpose into over 5,000 meals every day comes from many sources including restaurants, grocery stores, and more recently, local farms.



Through DC Central Kitchen’s Farm to Kitchen Initiative, we procure hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce from local farms that would otherwise be wasted.

Sometimes we buy this unwanted produce at discounted prices, but other times our own volunteers go to the farms and collect the produce through gleaning.

Gleaning is the collecting of the crops that were not usable in a commercial market, usually due to blemishes or odd shaping of the food. However, the food is still perfectly edible, and DC Central Kitchen takes full advantage of it.

Around once a week, our volunteers go to farms that we partner with, such as Red Wiggler Farm in Maryland, to gather what crops they have for us to collect.

Since Red Wiggler Farm is greatly run on volunteer manpower, our gleaning helps them to clear fields that they need for new crops, making it a mutually beneficial relationship.

On our last visit to Red Wiggler Farm, our volunteers collected green beans and rainbow chard that were brought back to the Kitchen to be used in meal production.


, July 23rd, 2012

Staff Profile: Marianne Ali, Director of Job Training and First Helping

Marianne Ali has been a member of the DC Central Kitchen family for 15 years, serving as an inspiration and leader to both the staff and students of the Culinary Job Training Program. Like many of her students, Marianne came to DC Central Kitchen with a challenging past.

“When I was 16 ½, I used drugs,” shares Marianne. “I continued to use for the next 20 years.”

After hitting “the bottom of rock bottom,” Marianne went to a transitional setting for women for sixth months to help her recover from her addiction, for good this time.

Upon leaving the transition house, Marianne followed her love of cooking to culinary school while also working part-time for UPS. Upon graduation, she was offered a job at DC Central Kitchen with Fresh Start Catering.

“When I was working at Fresh Start, I saw what was happening with the Culinary Job Training Program and said, ‘I need to be over there.

Though she had never been a teacher, Marianne knew she could make a difference with the students.

“What qualifies me is my history,” Marianne explains. “The students know I understand about emotional and physical abuse, I know about low self worth, about being hungry, and desperation. On all those levels, I can connect.

When Marianne was given the task of re-vamping the Culinary Job Training Program, she was a bit overwhelmed by the task. It was through following her own advice that she most gives to the students of the training program that helped her be successful at the job.

Trust yourself. Go with what you think and trust it and if you mess up, learn from it so you know what not to do next time.”

While Marianne admits that she does not have all the answers, she is certain of some things. “What I do know is this: I came to DC Central Kitchen because I’m supposed to be here.”

Good news for the staff and students at DC Central Kitchen is that Marianne has no plans of leaving the organization any time soon.

“The time I landed on my feet is when I landed here. You’ll have to carry me out of here on a stretcher for me to leave!”

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DC Central Kitchen

425 2nd St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Near Union Station)
United Way# 8233, CFC# 67538
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