Updates for First Helping
Every morning, Monday through Friday, DC Central Kitchen’s First Helping outreach team sets up at the corner of Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue – a neighborhood no other homeless outreach group visits. Most days, about thirty men and women will come out for a cup of coffee, a sandwich and if they’re ready for it, a conversation about how to overcome the obstacles they’re facing.
Mr. Taylor started visiting First Helping’s table for the free food. But now he’s on track to find work.
I did ten years in the penitentiary and this is helping me catch up on a lot of the things I missed. The computer class is helping me find jobs and helping me get back into learning how to use the internet.
In addition to helping clients identify job opportunities, First Helping now also provides computer training classes at DC Central Kitchen’s new computer lab. Mr. Taylor hopes that his computer training will improve his job propects. He’s receiving SSI for a disability right now, and would like to improve his computer skills so he can find a job.
First Helping is helping me do something positive with my life so I am not out on the street committing a crime.
Today is Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Here are 8 ways we’re using the power of food to change lives.
Combating Food Waste
Every day, DC Central Kitchen transforms 3,000 pounds of food into 5,000 meals that are distributed to local nonprofits serving at-risk populations and low income men and women. Last year, this saved the community over $3.6 million by transforming those leftovers into 2 million balanced meals.
Changing Lives through Culinary Job Training
Here at DC Central Kitchen, we believe that food not only nourishes bodies, but also minds, by creating opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. Through our 14 week Culinary Job Training Program, we’re shortening the line of the city’s hungry people and creating jobs for unemployed men and women in the food and hospitality industry.
Breaking through Nutritional Barriers with Healthy School Food
We’re serving 4,800 healthy, scratch-cooked breakfasts, lunches, and suppers every day at 9 DC schools. At the schools, we’re not just serving food but also changing eating habits and educating kids about nutrition. We’re teaching kids about how to eat healthier and how they can bring those healthy habits home.
Defeating Food Deserts with Healthy Corner Stores
Through our partnership with 32 DC corner stores, we’ve developed a new model to provide affordable fresh produce and healthy snacks for communities lacking sufficient access to nutritious food. Healthy Corners is the only program of its kind nationwide.
Resisting a Recession and Federal Shutdown
While Congress was squabbling over the budget and shutting down government services, DC Central Kitchen served over 80,000 meals to 88 local nonprofits and 60,000 meals to 9 DC Schools. Our meals saved those local nonprofits over $156,000, which they reinvested into unique programs serving their clients. DC Central Kitchen also creates jobs for its culinary graduates, and has hired over 60 men and women to produce our healthy and scratch-cooked meals.
Investing in Local Farms
Last year, we invested $156,523 in local farms by buying their produce and meat products, giving those farmers a crucial role in our work to combat hunger and poor health in DC by providing their healthy produce for our scratch-cooked meals.
Providing Street Outreach with First Helping
Every morning, DC Central Kitchen’s First Helping Outreach Team serves hot breakfasts at 3 sites around the city while connecting over 100 chronically homeless men and women to crucial services including drug rehabilitation, job placement, skills training, and transitional housing.
Partnering with the Restaurant Industry
DC Central Kitchen partners with hundreds of restaurants each year. Our city’s restaurants and chefs host our Culinary Job Training students as interns in their kitchens and teach special lessons. They also team up with us for great fundraising events, like the upcoming Capital Food Fight™ which will bring over 75 of our restaurant partners together to support DC Central Kitchen.
If you live here in Washington, DC or just watch the news, you know this week’s high heat and heavy humidity hasn’t been easy for anyone.
But for men, women, and families who are homeless and spend the daytime hours on the street when shelters are closed, this heat is more than uncomfortable – it’s downright dangerous.
Today, DC Central Kitchen outreach workers Jeff Rustin and James Weeks are out on the streets, providing care packages of food and water to stave off the sun. This isn’t the first time our staff have taken on tough weather to make a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s back-to-back blizzards, powerful hurricanes, or brutal heat waves, DC Central Kitchen operates 365 days a year.
When our community needs us most, DC Central Kitchen is open and on the front lines providing healthy meals and crucial programs that break the cycle of poverty. “Whatever we need they help us get it. You can’t find help like that anywhere else,” says Tammy Parker, a First Helping client, pictured in the photo above. Supporters like you empower our staff to act decisively when sudden changes affect our community. A local foundation has pledged to match all of today’s contributions to our First Helping Street Outreach program. If you want to help someone who’s living on the street and suffering in the heat, you can double your impact by making a gift today.
DC Central Kitchen doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We are aware that other nonprofits are out there doing important work to make change. This is why we’re always trying to build connections with those programs. Here are some of the partnerships we’ve built:
We’ve partnered with 88 nonprofits around DC to provide 5,000 balanced meals every day. The nonprofits receiving our meals reinvest the money we save them back into their unique programming where it can make an even greater impact.
Through our street outreach program, we’re using over 180 balanced meals each day to engage hundreds of chronically homeless men and women with crucial services provided by over 30 nonprofit partners, who can offer the next step on the road to recovery. Last year, our outreach team referred 59 of those clients to stable housing.
Culinary Job Training
The majority of students in our Culinary Job Training Program are referred to us from other nonprofits. As students work their way through the course, we ensure they still have access to the crucial social services provided by our nonprofit partners so they can stay committed to their studies.
Healthy School Food
We’re excited to be part of the DC Farm to School Network, where we work with nonprofits like the DC Greens to educate and connect D.C. schoolchildren with the sources of their food by creating experiential learning opportunities such as chef demonstrations, farmer visits, and taste tests. This effort is crucial to empowering kids to eat healthier.
Funds for Programming
We can’t forget Martha’s Table and the United Way of the National Capital Area, who we just partnered with to raise funds to fight hunger through the United Way’s Do More 24 event. We’ve also joined Martha’s Table for the past 4 years to promote Sips & Suppers, a celebration of food and community that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for both organizations.
March was a month of breakthroughs and new chapters for First Helping clients. Some of clients who we have been engaging for a long time on the streets opened up to receive some additional support.
Take for example a man named Maurice, who spent 27 years in prison, and then came home in 2010 with no support system. He came to First Helping’s feeding site every day for a meal and began to develop a relationship with our outreach team. Maurice was a client that was often seen, but never heard. He always stayed to himself and very seldom spoke.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Maurice revealed to First Helping that he suffered from a drinking problem, and feared that if he didn’t get into a treatment program he would return back to prison to finish up his time on parole until 2024. Maurice had his clothes in hand and was ready restart his life that day, and the First Helping team was able to get him into a treatment program.
Check out some of our other First Helping successes from last month:
- 1 male clients entered drug program
Outpatient Mental Health Linkages
- 3 clients received outpatient Mental Health services
- 1 client completed Home Health Aid Certification and is now employed
- 1 client entered the Culinary Job Training Program through First Helping Outreach
- 1 client participated in UPO Weatherization Training
- 1 client was enrolled to receive Veterans Benefits
- 1 client was enrolled to receive Supplemental Disability
- 2 clients received eye glasses from Lens Crafters
- 1 client received a TB test
- 2 clients received their driver’s license
- 7 clients came to the Empowerment Workshop entitled “What Gets in My Way”
Four years ago, I was hungry, homeless, and feeling hopeless. I heard about DC Central Kitchen’s white van on South Capitol Street that served meals. I found much more than breakfast. I found hope and a new beginning.
An outreach worker told me about DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program. I enrolled, and 14 weeks later I graduated with a food handlers’ license and a job.
Now I’m no longer standing in line waiting for a sandwich. From a hot, healthy meal to intensive training and finally a steady job, DC Central Kitchen has helped me completely turn my life around.
This April, DC Central Kitchen gave me a new opportunity: there was a job opening in the same street outreach program that gave me my new beginning. Today, I’m driving the white van every morning to help people like me get the services and support they need to change their lives.
I ask you to please make a donation today. Your gift buys an opportunity for the people like me who are ready to change, but need a hand getting out of the sandwich line and into the driver’s seat.