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

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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Celebration in Order for Central Union Mission’s First Class of CJT Graduates

, August 20th, 2014

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Last Friday marked a DC Central Kitchen milestone: our first Culinary Job Training class from Central Union Mission graduated! Twelve weeks of hard work paid off for the 10 graduates who joined friends, family and DCCK supporters at Central Union Mission to celebrate their achievements and plans for the future.

Class 1 representative Lee Hylton addressed the audience, his fellow graduates, and the men and women of DCCK’s Class 97, who just completed their sixth week of training, and said: “Every day DC Central Kitchen exemplifies that there are still people who want to help others.” He added, “This program worked for me and my classmates, and it will work for you too.”

Lee, who spent 24 months in prison prior to starting the Culinary Job Training Program, secured a job prior to Friday’s graduation and started working this week at Acacia Bistro in the Van Ness neighborhood of Northwest DC. Other employers of the graduating class include Sodexo at Marymount University and Nando’s Peri Peri; and graduates are earning an average hourly wage of $11.62.

A steady job can mean a world of change for men and women overcoming obstacles like incarceration, homelessness and addiction. Our Culinary Job Training program works with students and alumni to help them secure a good job to support themselves and their families.

DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program would not be possible without the investments of our community partners, including the Capital One Foundation, CityCenterDC, The City Fund, and the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, among others. The Culinary Job Training program always has more applicants than it can accommodate, and partnerships like these create opportunities for us to provide more students with the critical tools they need to break the cycle of dependency and find jobs.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at this milestone event. We look forward to seeing you at 2pm on October 10th at the U.S. Navy Memorial and Heritage Center where we’ll celebrate DCCK’s 97th class of CJT graduates!

Check out some other great photos from Friday’s event!

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Book Launch Party Honoring DC Central Kitchen’s 25th Anniversary

, August 14th, 2014

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DC Central Kitchen invites you to join us on September 18th for a launch party celebrating the release of the new book written in honor of our 25th anniversary year, “The Food Fighters: DC Central Kitchen’s First 25 Years on the Front Lines of Hunger and Poverty” by our own Chief Development Officer, Alexander Justice Moore.

Thursday, September 18, 2014
Liaison Capitol Hill’s Rooftop Pool & Bar
415 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Come celebrate with us and enjoy:

Tickets are $75 each, and include food, drinks, and a signed copy of “The Food Fighters.”
$40 of your purchase is a tax deductible contribution to DC Central Kitchen

Online ticket sales have closed. Tickets may be purchased at the door.


Can’t make the event but want to buy the book? You can find it on Amazon. (Don’t forget to use AmazonSmile to support DC Central Kitchen!)


Thanks to our good friends for their support of this celebration:



DCCK Training Director Receives White House Honor

, June 30th, 2014


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