Updates for Achievements
One woman working in the basement of one of this country’s largest homeless shelters has spent 17 years helping DC’s ex-offenders get back on their feet, re-enter the workforce, and steer clear of crime (and punishment). Marianne Ali, the leader of DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program (CJT), doesn’t bring her trademark fire and vision to work each day because she’s looking for recognition or awards.
But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve them. And today, Chef Ali was named a White House Champion of Change. One of more than 900 nominees across the country, Ali’s record of “extraordinary work to facilitate employment opportunities for individuals formerly involved in the justice system” stood out through a highly competitive vetting process. Months after being nominated by her close partners at DC’s lead prisoner reentry agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), Ali joins 15 honorees in a group that includes acclaimed Homeboy Industries founder Father Greg Boyle.
CSOSA’s nomination credited Ali with helping to “develop one of the best culinary training programs in the country” and praised her “continuous and assertive” approach to guiding returning citizens through a complex web of social, legal, and financial barriers to achieve self-sufficiency. To date, DCCK’s training efforts, led by Chef Ali, have produced more than 1,300 graduates. Since the recession of 2008, CJT has produced 498 graduates with an 89% job placement rate—and 75% of Ali’s students are ex-offenders, providing a powerful return on investment to our donors and wider community each year.
To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
Check out our latest Annual Report, “Unfinished Business”: DC Central Kitchen’s impact on hunger and joblessness in DC. Check it out here.
25 years ago yesterday, a young nightclub manager named Robert Egger parked his used delivery van at the back door of an inaugural ball and recovered the first pan of food ever donated to DC Central Kitchen. He wasn’t an expert in food systems or social work, but he was dissatisfied with the way his hometown treated leftover food and jobless adults—in short, he was sick of seeing both of them thrown away.
Robert’s ideas were simple but revolutionary. By bringing donated food to one central kitchen and creating an economy of scale, Robert was able to fight waste and prepare higher quality meals for the District’s shelters and nonprofits. And more importantly, he could recruit unemployed or homeless adults to come to that kitchen, enroll in a culinary training program, and help make those very meals. He created a way to shorten this city’s line of hungry people by the very way he fed it.
For a quarter-century, we’ve worked tirelessly to fulfill Robert’s original vision and build on it in pioneering new ways. Today, we earn over 60% of our revenue through job-creating social enterprises. We are as much a business as we are a nonprofit—it’s just that our best-selling product is empowerment. From fighting food waste to investing in local farmers to helping our culinary graduates average a 90% job placement rate, DC Central Kitchen is on the cutting edge of our community’s most essential needs.
We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished since our first day of operations, but disappointed that our services are still needed. Robert Egger designed DC Central Kitchen so that our very model would ultimately put ourselves out of business. Thank you for believing in that model and investing in a brighter, more inclusive future.
As the New Year approaches, we reflect on our achievements of 2013. We’re proud of all the lives we’ve changed through our work in this year of real results.
In 2013, DC Central Kitchen:
- Graduated 87 men and women from our Culinary Job Training Program and changed their lives and achieved a 89 percent job placement rate
- Expanded our Culinary Job Training Program to two new sites, empowered 16 more men and women to find and maintain employment
- Prevented 699,738 lbs lbs of food from being wasted and provided 1.8 million healthy meals to thousands of hungry men and women at 88 DC nonprofits
- Produced healthy, scratch-cooked meals for over 2,400 low-income school children at DC schools
- Expanded our Healthy Corner Store Program to 32 stores, combated food deserts by distributing 7,500 nutritious snacks each month and investing $40,000 into the local economy.
We’re proud of our achievements – and we couldn’t do this without your support!
Consider making a year-end contribution today. All gifts are tax deductible and gifts made by December 31st will be matched by Venable LLP up to $25,000.
Thanks for supporting us this year and Happy New Year from all of us at DC Central Kitchen!
Check out our latest annual report, now online here.
Richard McCray is advancing quickly in his new job managing The Burger Joint in Clarendon, Virginia. He owes all of his success to graduating from DC Central Kitchen’s first Arlington Culinary Job Training class four years ago.
McCray first heard about DC Central Kitchen upon being released from his seven year prison sentence in 2009. With nowhere else to go, he lived at a shelter, where extending one’s stay was contingent on finding employment. Desperate for any sort of employment, he decided to give the DCCK program a shot. While not particularly keen on cooking, something told McCray that he should take this opportunity. He enrolled in our program.
He stuck out the long hours of the program and graduated in November 2009. He says he benefited most from the life skills component of the course. For example, he learned how to deal with negativity from coworkers in a productive manner. “Kitchens have a lot of emotions and it can be frustrating. Growing up, my way of dealing with someone who was wrong was to punch him and make him see the right way. DCCK showed me there was another way,” said McCray.
So how does McCray deal with the stressful demands of the kitchen? “I try to have a laugh every day,” McCray replies. Richard McCray is enjoying his path to success, and we can’t wait to watch him grow.