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 Healthy Returns


DC Central Kitchen’s New Year’s Resolutions

, January 21st, 2014

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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.



Food Day: 8 Ways We Use Food To Change Lives

, October 24th, 2013

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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.



4 Ways Healthy Futures is Working for DC Neighborhoods

, December 20th, 2012

Changing Eating Habits
Our innovative and thoughtful way of preparing healthy meals at DC Public Schools has led to solid returns. The kids are eating healthier every day and bringing those healthy habits home.

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Building Partnerships with Small Businesses
Through Healthy Corners, we’ve partnered with 30 corner stores in Wards 5, 7, and 8 to provide fresh produce and healthy snacks at affordable prices. Not only are we investing in these stores and providing a new business opportunity, but we’re engaging the store owners to become crucial champions of change in their communities.

We’re also investing in local farms and buying much of our produce locally. Our Farm-to-School initiative engages farmers to become part of the solution by providing much of the healthy produce we serve.

Combating Childhood Hunger by Providing Three Square Meals
Together, our Healthy School Food initiative and Healthy Returns effort, which delivers meals and snacks to after school programs and summer camps, give kids healthy, scratch-cooked meals three times per day. And these meals are packed with fresh local produce, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Educating the Community
With our Truck Farm, school cooking demos, and community outreach efforts, we’re educating the entire community about nutrition. Last year, we educated over 9,800 individuals with hands-on strategies for healthy eating and an additional 2,300 children through the Truck Farm, an innovative traveling edible exhibit that teaches kids where food comes from.

You can be part of this success. Make a contribution this holiday season to promote health and combat hunger in DC neighborhoods.



How We Cultivate Adventurous Eaters

, December 18th, 2012

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Think back to when you were in school. Did you ever get to try grilled BBQ beef bulgogi? How about curried chick peas, cauliflower gratin, red cabbage coleslaw, roasted beets, whole wheat bread stuffing, or Asia- style Brussels slaw? Before DC Central Kitchen produced meals for DC Public Schools, many of the kids had never tried whole grain pasta or raw kale.

We’ve learned that cultivating adventurous eaters, ones who are willing to give anything an honest try, takes time, repeated exposure, and a little one-on-one attention. And when healthy food is prepared the right way, most kids will give it a try! Kids get really excited about trying a specially prepared sample in an individual cup served to them by one of our chefs!

When the kids learn about a new food they like, they often talk about it at home. They ask their parents to provide the same food they’re getting at school. But if they live far from an affordable grocery store, it’s often hard to make those healthy meals at home. This is why we’ve partnered with 30 DC corner stores to bring many of the fresh ingredients and healthy snacks to their neighborhoods.

We’ve learned through our work at DC Public Schools that most kids want to eat healthy, but they aren’t being exposed to a variety of healthy food prepared in kid-friendly ways. This means going beyond simply providing vegetables as a side, to planning a variety of thoughtfully prepared dishes to give kids a wider palate. By cultivating adventurous eaters, we’re actually setting kids up to eat healthier for the rest of their lives.

You can join us to create brighter futures for DC families. Visit our Donate page and invest in our effort to push nutritional barriers and promote health in DC neighborhoods.



Pioneering a ‘Wraparound’ Approach to Changing Lives

, December 17th, 2012

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At DC Central Kitchen, we change lives through the creative use of food. Across America, there are lots of organizations bringing healthy food to low-income children and families. It’s important work, and we’re glad to see conversations about hunger, obesity, and diet-related disease taking place at dinner tables and in the halls of Congress.

But helping kids and families lead healthier lives takes more than handing out strange new foods and saying “Eat this, it’s good for you.” At DCCK, we have pioneered a path-breaking ‘wraparound’ approach to changing behaviors and empowering people to live better.

Others have said that kids don’t want to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – and when these foods are served only occasionally, and in isolation from nutrition education and real engagement, they’re right! But our programs provide healthy food options in school, after school, during school vacations, and even to corner stores near DC schools.

By offering these items at so many places where children spend their time, we reinforce good decision making and give them the tools to grow up strong.

Our model starts in school, where we serve nearly 5,000 healthy, locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals to children enrolled at 10 DC schools. We focus on serving low-income neighborhoods, and many of the 2,000 schoolchildren we serve each day rely on us for three meals each day. When school is out of session, these kids face the threat of hunger. That’s why we distribute more than 100,000 nutritious meals and snacks to 35 youth programs and summer camps each year, helping nourish young people during school vacations.

And to help kids make smarter dietary choices on their own, we stock 30 corner stores in low-income neighborhoods with fresh produce and wholesome snacks through our Healthy Corners program. While other communities across America are searching for a solution to the lack of quality options on corner store shelves, DC Central Kitchen has become the only nonprofit to take on the central issue of distribution, making us a national leader in the struggle against ‘food deserts.’

We’re empowering our community to live healthier by bringing quality food to its schools, summer camps, and corner stores. Join our effort to build a healthier future today!



How We Get Kids to “Eat Real”

, November 7th, 2012

Here at DC Central Kitchen, it’s obvious that we take food seriously. However, did you know that we are also cultivating hundreds of young gourmands across the city?

Through our Healthy Returns program, we send free meals and healthy snacks to around 30 agencies that serve low-income children and teens every day.

These are scratch-cooked, healthy dinners that introduce kids to new foods through our weekly Health and Wellness with DCCK series. We also provide the agencies with nutrition education and cooking classes.

On Food Day 2012, we brought the “Eat Real” message to two Healthy Returns agencies. Kids worked together in hands-on activities to learn about the differences between processed and whole foods.

Using materials from the Food Day website, each student made an Eat Real Action Plan for the next week. Kids confessed that they had never really thought much about processed foods before, and the information was challenging!

We at DC Central Kitchen are proud to Eat Real. We hope that our work sets DC kids on the path for a healthy, happy future.