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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Updates for Achievements

Carla Hall Keynotes Class 98 Graduation

, January 15th, 2015


On Friday, January 10, DC Central Kitchen celebrated with the graduates of culinary job training Class 98 at the US Navy Memorial and Heritage Center. We were honored to welcome Carla Hall as the special guest keynote speaker, who spoke about her perspective on what it means to experience life’s highs and lows, and how one must always look for the upside of feeling down and out.

Seventeen men and women commemorated the end of their rigorous 14 weeks of culinary training at a packed house that included esteemed chef and restaurateur José Andrés, as well as friends, family, and DCCK staff.

Class 98 also marked the sixth consecutive year of the J. Williard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation’s generous support of the culinary training program. Kathleen Wellington, director of culinary sustainability at Marriott International, shared her experience in the culinary field and stressed the importance of being flexible as your career path changes. The requirements of a job in the hospitality sector can change suddenly, and embracing those changes is a vital key to professional success.

Graduate Kevin Smith was elected Class Representative and used his speech to reflect on the growth Class 98 experienced during their time together. Smith reminded the audience that regardless of where you come from, what your background is, or the color of your skin, everyone experiences challenges in life. It’s a certainty that unites us all, he said, but it doesn’t have to define us.

Employers of the graduating class include Ingleside Rock Creek, Giant Foods, Harris Teeter, and Vision of Victor with an average wage of $11.10/hour.

Thank you to all of our generous sponsors who help make the culinary job training program and the success of our graduates possible! If you didn’t make it to this graduation, be sure to mark your calendars for Class 99’s graduation ceremony on Friday, April 10th!

DCCK’s Chow-Chow Now Available at Whole Foods!

, November 18th, 2014

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If you didn’t make it to the Capital Food Fight™ last Tuesday, or happen to read the article in The Washington Post last Wednesday, then you probably haven’t heard that DCCK has made our first foray into the supermarket food manufacturing space! That’s right, our Chow-Chow, a sweet, pickled relish made from a combination of vegetables and served cold, is now available on Whole Foods Market olive bars and packaged in ‘to go’ containers at the Tenleytown, Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, and P Street locations.

Like all of our social enterprise activities, DCCK will produce and distribute the Chow-Chow out of our Nutrition Lab kitchen facility located in Northeast DC, and each batch will be prepared by graduates of our Culinary Job Training program.

Chow-Chow can be eaten by itself or as a savory condiment on fish, poultry, crackers, and a variety of other foods. Head over to your local Whole Foods and try it for yourself – 100% percent of proceeds support DCCK!

DCCK Culinary Graduate Settles in as White House Cook

, November 14th, 2014

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At DC Central Kitchen, we teach our students that every job is a good job. An entry-level gig as a prep cook or dishwasher might not make you rich, but if you keep showing up each day with the right attitude and amount of effort, you can go places. 2013 DCCK culinary graduate Abby Wood took this teaching to heart, and it landed her a very special job—in the kitchen of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, a building that houses various agencies that comprise the Executive Office of the President.

Soft-spoken, with soft features and short stature, Wood didn’t exude confidence in her early days at DCCK. At five years old, Wood was diagnosed with a learning disability, which she says led her to become shy and withdrawn. Time and again, she was told “You’re just not going to make it.”

At the behest of a loving aunt, Wood ventured down to DCCK, looking to turn a personal passion into a professional career. The busy kitchen, with clattering steel and chatty chefs, was intimidating at first, but instead of hearing from those around her that she wasn’t going to make it, her instructors repeatedly urged her to “trust the process.”

In the program’s first seven weeks, Wood was inundated with information, from exacting knife cuts to conversion measures to safe methods of handling food. With the help of her instructors, Wood made lengthy to-do lists. She started using her phone to help manage her time in ways that kept her from being distracted. She also learned how meticulous note-taking could help her learn better. And when DCCK’s hard-nosed self-empowerment classes or rigorous, month-long internship experience pushed her to the limits of her social comfort zone, Woods says her instructors “learned how to read me” and coaxed her out of her shell when she wanted to withdraw.

Upon graduation, Wood landed an enjoyable position at the Library of Congress, where she honed her skills in a diverse workplace. But Wood, so outwardly shy, had a bigger dream that she only whispered to her closest confidants at DCCK.

She had a dream of working in the White House. And through her first job, she developed a network, dutifully watched for openings, and trusted the process of achieving her dreams. The vetting process was long and frustrating, and she could have easily gotten distracted or dejected. But she didn’t.

It’s been nearly six months since Abby landed her job in the kitchen of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and we’re proud to report that she is still there – happy, fulfilled, and working full-time in her dream job.

DC Central Kitchen taught me hyper-focus and a dedication to detail and learning new things, all skills that are beneficial in any environment, especially a challenging workplace like the White House.- Abby Wood

“Don’t let other people deter you from your goals,” Wood adds with a bright smile.

DC Central Kitchen Appears on ‘The Chew’

, October 2nd, 2014


Yesterday, DC Central Kitchen staff, graduates, and friends grew a little bit closer to each other as we shared in the delight of seeing our very own CJT graduate Howard Thomas on ABC’s hit cooking-themed daytime talk show, “The Chew.”

The show dedicated a significant amount of air time to portraying the work of the Kitchen and our graduates. Howard, who is currently the lead production cook at Washington Jesuit Academy for our Healthy School Food program, did such an incredible job representing the Kitchen and sharing his story in front of a live studio audience!

Thank you Carla Hall, Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz and the entire crew of “The Chew” for highlighting our work and our mission to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.

Check out a short clip of yesterday’s episode here!

Healthy Corners Program Doubles in Size

, September 10th, 2014

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Last week, The Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine published a new study revealing that while Americans as a whole are eating healthier, low-income individuals are not. Access to quality nutrition is now one of the most important and detrimental dividing lines between rich and poor—and that inequality is making it harder for low-income people to stay healthy, which in turn drives up healthcare expenses for everyone.

At DC Central Kitchen, we’re taking this challenge head on with our pioneering Healthy Corners program. Since 2011, we’ve helped corner stores in struggling neighborhoods stock and sell fresh produce and nutritious items by giving them free infrastructure (like refrigerators and shelving), marketing assistance and affordable deliveries of healthy food. With an average retail price of just $0.44, Healthy Corners products are good for both low-income consumers and small business owners.

To keep these prices low, we work with public agencies and philanthropic supporters to offset some of the costs of running Healthy Corners. Earlier this year, we received a grant from the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) to expand our program from 32 to 62 stores. After a summer of intensive outreach, we met and exceeded that goal, and now 63 small businesses in under-served DC neighborhoods are selling fresh, healthy food that otherwise wouldn’t be on their shelves.

Other key partners in Healthy Corners’ success include the DC Department of Health, Aetna Foundation, Wallace Genetic Foundation, McGuinn Family Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and Kaiser Permanente. Earlier in 2014, Healthy Corners won the Tavis Smiley-University of Maryland Social Innovation Challenge, a national competition seeking solutions to long-standing community challenges.

Thank you to all the partners, supporters, customers, and small business owners working together to make Healthy Corners a success!

2014 Mid-Year Report

, August 28th, 2014


We are proud to share our achievements from January 1 through June 30, 2014. Our work would not be possible without the partnership and tremendous support of community members. DC Central Kitchen combats hunger, poverty, and poor health through food recovery, meal distribution, job training, and innovative social enterprise.

January 1 – June 30, 2014

2014 Mid-Year Report


Read more about Food Recovery and Meal Distribution


Read more about Social Enterprise


Read more about Job Training


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DC Central Kitchen believes waste is wrong – whether it’s kitchen space, human potential, or food. From January 1 – June 30, DC Central Kitchen recovered 446,133 pounds of donated food that would have otherwise ended up in landfills. Instead, we turned that perfectly nutritious food into 867,422 meals distributed to 88 social service agencies serving at-risk men, women and children in DC.

We receive most of our produce donations at the peak of ripeness and the product needs to be used right away, which can make planning menus challenging. Starting in 2014, kitchen staff began blanching and freezing large donations of produce for future use allowing us to build a supply of frozen produce to use in the winter months when fruits and vegetables are less abundant.

DC Central Kitchen staff have also adopted a zero waste approach to meal production. As recipes are implemented, staff consider which ingredients are not being completely used, such as the tops and bottoms of peppers or meat trimmings. Starting early this year, staff began using the scraps to create a stock and marinade base. Every week, scraps from our Main Kitchen, our healthy school food locations, and the Nutrition Lab are turned into 350 gallons of beef, chicken and vegetable bases without the high sodium content of manufactured bases. We’re making our meals healthier, reducing food waste, and saving funds.

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DC Central Kitchen’s three social enterprise programs: Fresh Start Catering, Healthy School Foods, and Healthy Corners, create jobs and generate more than half of our annual budget, allowing us to proudly pay each of our 150 employees a living wage with health and retirement benefits.

In the first half of 2014, our Healthy School Food Program served 468,035 meals in 10 DC schools. We conduct regular in-school nutrition education sessions and give kids a say in their menus to increase student’s interest and comfort with eating healthier foods.

Ten of our Healthy Corners stores are strategically located within half a mile of the schools we serve, giving students and their families’ access to healthy options after school, too. And, the fresh produce available in Healthy Corners stores often mirrors the ingredients used in school meals. From January to June 2014, we hosted 19 in-store cooking demonstrations and six healthy cooking classes to show families how to prepare healthy, affordable meals at home. Familiarizing men, women, and children who typically rely on cheaper processed foods with nutritious, affordable options and where to find them in their communities is a powerful way to make healthier lifestyles a reality for families.

Starting this past spring we expanded our Healthy Corners locations from 30 to 62. We know consumers are busy and may not have time to prepare a home-cooked meal, so we’re developing more prepared foods to provide healthy grab-and-go options, like trail mix and cut fruit. Sales in corner stores have been increasing, even in neighborhoods where diabetes and obesity rates are among the highest in DC, showing there is an interest in eating healthier foods.

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Our Culinary Job Training Program prepares unemployed men and women for new careers through hands-on training, a 4-week internship in a DC restaurant or hotel, and a powerful self-empowerment class. We know our Culinary Job Training Program offers a fresh start for students, so we’ve added additional classes in partnership with other organizations like Central Union Mission and Arlington Employment Center.

And, as students graduate, we’re staying in touch with them because we know the transition from relying on public assistance to independently supporting a family is not easy or straight forward. The Culinary Job Training team is extending their expertise in job search, case management, and counseling services to graduates of the program.

In the first half of 2014, our Evaluation and Retention Coordinator, Jamilah Al-Bari, a CJT alumna herself, contacted 92 alumni to gather data about their employment status and pay rate, as well as their living and family situations. Jamilah can leverage our network of restaurant and foodservice partners to help alumni find full-time jobs. If a graduate needs assistance finding housing, or connecting to other social services, Jamilah can refer him or her to DC Central Kitchen’s case workers.

We also started a free regular grocery pick-up service to provide fresh produce to support graduates’ journeys to self-sufficiency. Later this year, we will host a CJT Hiring Fair, which will feature local employers ready to not just meet our graduates, but hire them. We’re focusing on connecting graduates to jobs in schools, hospitals and hotels, which typically pay higher wages and offer benefits for employees.

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