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

News for Culinary Job Training

, April 10th, 2014

New Baking Operation Needs Your Support

William Farrell

William Farrell is leading up a new, innovative baking program at DC Central Kitchen.

William Ferrell came to DC Central Kitchen in 2010 after being released from prison. He was looking for a second chance, and the opportunity to turn his culinary passion into a job. He found that chance through the Culinary Job Training program, and today, William is a supervisor at DC Central Kitchen who oversees the production of thousands of meals each day.

William figured he could make our meals for afterschool programs more nutritious and less costly by doing more baking on-site and relying less on packaged, processed foods.

He began experimenting with our second-hand baking equipment in a cramped corner of our dry goods pantry, and he has since developed a number of healthy, kid-friendly recipes. Items like his pumpkin bread, which calls for less sugar and three times the water of traditional recipes, have been huge hits at the 35 afterschool programs for low-income children that rely on our meals.

Your gift today supports William’s healthy, innovative recipes that break the cycle of poverty and poor health.

William has more healthy recipes up his sleeve, but we can’t produce these nutritious items in the quantities we need without the right tools.

This is your chance to help to upgrade our kitchen and prepare better food for kids.

Thanks to a challenge grant from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, we’re already halfway to our fundraising goal to build this critical infrastructure, but we need your help to get the rest of the way.

Give today, and your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $20,000.

Thanks for being a partner in our innovative solutions to combating hunger and promoting good health.

, February 17th, 2014

Culinary Class 95 Hosts Burger Cook-Off To Showcase Skills

Class 95 poses with cook-off judges and staff.

Class 95 poses with cook-off judges and staff.

Last week, students in the 95th Culinary Job Training Class participated in a gourmet burger cook-off competition. The students’ culinary skills and creativity were judged by professional chefs and members of the business community including:

Students had a little less than a week to come up with their team’s burger concept and work on their preparation and presentation. Culinary Instructor Afiya Howell said that students were really excited about working with burgers and the creativity started to flow immediately.

According to CJT student Antoin Washington, participating in the cook-off and getting to be competitive with other students has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in the class. Student Marvin Bushrod echoed Antoin and found the experience rewarding:

The cook-off was a a competitive, fast-paced experience that brought out some nerves, but ultimately brought out everyone’s best creative skills.
- Marvin Bushrod, Class 95 Student

David Hill, CJT’s Clinical Social Worker, explained that the cook-off helps our students “start to mesh” and “really learn to compromise and work as a team”, which are all very important skills for our students to learn before heading out to start their month long internships this week. Class 95′s Gregory Jackson described how he and his teammates “grew into a force” once they figured out how to work together.

The students’ hard work paid off, as cook-off judge Burton Hess from Nando’s Peri Peri restaurant was impressed by their work.

Every one of these burgers could be on a restaurant menu!
- Burton Hess, Nando’s Peri Peri

A big thanks to all the judges that participated in Class 95’s cook-off!

, January 29th, 2014

Mayor Gray Announces Job Training Grant for DCCK

Mayor Gray making the announcement with DCCK board members Solomon Keene, Jr. (Hotel Association of Washington D.C.) and Kathy Hollinger (Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington)

Mayor Gray making the announcement with DCCK board members Solomon Keene, Jr. (President of the Hotel Association of Washington D.C.) and Kathy Hollinger (President of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington)

Mayor Vincent C. Gray today announced grant awards to DC Central Kitchen and the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC) to provide job training to District residents that is aligned with employer needs and leads to direct employment in the hospitality industry. DC Central Kitchen will receive performance-based payments for each DC resident we enroll, train, and place into our city’s growing culinary industry, ensuring a strong return on investment for DC taxpayers.

We thank the District for this important opportunity to expand our Culinary Job Training Program and serve more unemployed district residents! Last year, we placed nearly 90 percent of our culinary graduates into jobs.

, January 21st, 2014

DC Central Kitchen’s New Year’s Resolutions

2014 marks DC Central Kitchen’s 25th Anniversary – and we’re proud of our real results from the past year. Looking forward, 2014 promises to be an exciting year where we can expand our impact and take on unfinished business. Here are some of our New Year’s Resolutions for this year:

Double Number Of Participating Healthy Corners Stores
Through new partnerships, we’re undertaking an ambitious goal: doubling the number of corner stores participating in our Healthy Corners program to make affordable healthy snacks and fresh produce more available in DC’s most food insecure neighborhoods.

Expand the Culinary Job Training Program
Last year, we expanded our Culinary Job Training Program to two new sites: N Street Village and Arlington County. This year, we will continue expanding our offsite programs to increase the number of students we train.

Promote Long-Term Progress of Culinary Grads
Once our graduates are employed, that’s not the end of their relationship with DC Central Kitchen! We continue to cultivate our community of Culinary Graduates to ensure they have the support network in place to stay employed. This year, we’ve made crucial investments to strengthen that support network with the recent additions of a full-time clinical social worker and retention coordinator.

Utilize Healthier Ingredients in Agency Meals
We at DC Central Kitchen believe that everyone deserves a quality, home-cooked meal! Our agency meals are healthier and higher in quality than ever before, and we want to continue that progress by incorporating more fresh ingredients and scratch preparation into the 5,000 meals we prepare every day for 88 DC nonprofits.

Hire More Graduates!
Our social enterprises provide many employment opportunities for our Culinary Grads – and this year, we plan to hire more as we expand our School Food and Healthy Corners programs.

, January 7th, 2014

Creativity, Compassion and Confidence: The Right Ingredients

DCCK Chef Instructor Afiya Howell (front) with cookoff judges and the 4th Arlington County Culinary Job Training Class

DCCK Chef Instructor Afiya Howell (front) with cookoff judges and the 4th Arlington County Culinary Job Training Class

I’m a chef. It isn’t always easy for women in my industry to move up and make their presence felt. It takes the right mix of skill and swagger to get ahead.

After 13 years of honing my craft, serving carefully made meals to sorority sisters and even U.S. Senators, I thought I had those skills and that swagger down pat. What I started aching for wasn’t a professional edge, but a chance to give something back to my community.

I found that chance at DC Central Kitchen in January 2012. For more than 20 years, DCCK has turned the traditional soup kitchen model on its head, refusing to simply serve an endless line of ‘lost causes’ and instead train people who are out of work for good jobs in the culinary industry. What a perfect place for a chef to help others!

Of course, I assumed I would be the one doing the helping, not the one being helped. After all, what could people who had spent years out of work, or in prison, or on the streets teach me, a woman who had it all together?

It wasn’t long—a week, maybe two—before I began to understand just how much I had to learn from these resilient men and women.

At first, I tried to focus my lessons on the basics of working in a kitchen. I lectured—firmly and slowly. When my students struggled to follow, I slowed my speech down even more, until I realized I was speaking to them like they were children. I wasn’t meeting them where they were. I was playing down to where my assumptions indicated they might be.

Soon, my students were teaching me how to be a better, more creative teacher. Yes, a few followed me when I spoke, but some needed to see me demonstrate a technique before they could visualize it, while others had to learn by doing and fail a few times before they got it quite right. I began to develop PowerPoint slides for visual learners and instructional games for my tactile ones.

Once I began to improve as a culinary instructor, my students showed me how to go from showing people pity to offering true compassion. Pity can be enough if you just want to show a struggling student how to make a stock. It takes compassion to help a man take stock of himself and recognize he has real potential. To do that, I had to see potential in people I would have never expected to find. One of my first students was a middle-aged man who had just been released after 28 years in prison. Instead of being broken or angry, he was a constant source of upbeat energy and inspiration to his classmates—and to me. One day, I asked him how he stayed so relentlessly positive.

“I am a free man with many years to live,” he said. “And I choose to make the best of the time I have.”

Above all, my students have taught me about the power of choices. When many of these women and men were younger, they made choices that changed their lives forever. These choices led them to prison, or the streets, or into a life of addiction. But once they came to our kitchen, they made other life-changing choices: to listen, to learn, to resist temptation, to take personal responsibility. Those types of choices can be scary and can make a person feel awfully alone. To give them the confidence to stick with those decisions, I had to mirror that confidence and walk with them along their new path, step for step.

We all make mistakes. I made the mistake of walking into DC Central Kitchen and thinking I had all the answers. Instead, by forcing me to be a more creative, more compassionate teacher, my students gave me what I needed to succeed—and the confidence I needed to boldly call out the potential within them.

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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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