Updates for Meal Production
You’ve heard us say before that DC Central Kitchen never closes – and we don’t. During Storm Jonas, our staff and volunteers went beyond our normal meal commitments last weekend to provide more than 20,000 healthy meals and snacks for our neighbors in need. Friday through Saturday, our kitchen was open and in full operation.
On Saturday during the height of the blizzard, the Red Cross contacted us to provide 400 meals for an emergency shelter. We jumped into high gear and prepared not only a hot meal for Saturday night, but thanks to a generous donation from the Capital Area Food Bank of 25,000 KIND Bars, were also able send out healthy snacks for Sunday morning.
On Saturday night when our normal snow removal team suffered a broken snow plow, we worked with the Mayor’s office and District government to get our driveway cleared, while our staff recruited some fearless volunteers to help shovel out our trucks on Sunday morning. This team effort allowed us to deliver our regular meal count of 5,000 meals on Sunday afternoon.
Outside of the Kitchen, our annual two-day joint fundraiser with fellow nonprofit Martha’s Table, Sips & Suppers, was also scheduled to take place last weekend. Out of concern for the safety of our guests and partner restaurants, our team and the team at Martha’s Table acted quickly to postpone Saturday’s event and secure a new date for Sips, which will now take place this coming Saturday, January 30 at the Newseum. Most Suppers, which were scheduled to take place on Sunday evening at more than 30 homes throughout DC, will be rescheduled to a later date, and a select few hosts soldiered on and hosted the festive fine dining occasion at their homes despite the weather. We are incredibly grateful to our partner chefs who spend their own time and money to prepare for this event – and who have gone out of their way to keep their commitment to DCCK and Martha’s Table despite the date change.
Rain, sleet, snow, or shine, DC Central Kitchen never closes. We would not be able to continue our work to nourish our neighbors and provide hope for the hopeless if it weren’t for our dedicated staff, volunteers, and supporters. Thanks to our fellow #hungerfighters who stood by us to get the job done. Hunger doesn’t take a snow day. And, thanks to the support of so many in our community, neither do we.
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was once quoted saying: “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” That concept is embodied by one of our staff members and Culinary Job Training (CJT) graduates, Crystal Marshall.
Crystal is living proof that with enough drive and passion, a person can truly turn their life around. After returning home from prison with a felony on her record, Crystal knew she would have to build her life up from scratch. At age 30, she had no prior work experience and nothing to her name except a very supportive family, and more than a little ambition.
After returning home from prison, Crystal began volunteering at a local nonprofit called Friendship Place in order to gain community service hours as terms of her release. It was here that she learned about DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program. Crystal wanted to live a life of purpose; she wanted to find a way to do something she enjoyed, while also earning a living wage, and she knew this would be a difficult task with a felony on her record. She had never cooked before, but wanted to find a way to gain marketable skills, allowing her to find more than just a job, but a career. So, she set out to pursue her goals – a woman on a mission.
“I didn’t want to just learn how to do something and get a job; I wanted to acquire a skill that I could use to get other jobs. So, I focused on learning, as opposed to just being there. I showed up every morning on time, excited about being there.”
Upon graduating from CJT in January 2013, Crystal began working at Geppetto Catering in Riverdale, Maryland. Six months later, Crystal was hired by DCCK to work in our School Food program for which we serve up 4,300 locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals to low-income D.C. schoolchildren every day. Only one year after joining the School Food team, Crystal found herself promoted to a supervisor position. She now works in DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition Lab in Northeast, DC, overseeing her team of 12 staff as they all work together to meet each day’s quota of healthy meals for 10 schools in the District.
Not missing a beat since choosing to change her life’s path, Crystal not only has a job she loves, but has nearly completed a degree in computer science as well. Crystal climbed onto a moving train that’s not stopping anytime soon. She feels she has recreated herself. As this incredible young woman continues to beat the odds, it seems only the sky is the limit for her.
Each year at the end of summer, DCCK takes a look back at our progress toward our goals to combat hunger and create opportunity in DC. We’re committed to refining how we approach our work to provide healthy food for our low-income neighbors, and offer the skills and training chronically unemployed adults need to get –and keep – a job.
Our work would not be possible without committed investors and supporters like you. We hope you are proud to see what your financial investment in DC Central Kitchen has made possible in the first half of the year. Thank you for supporting our mission and believing in the power of food to change lives.
Every day, we’re preparing more than 11,000 meals for DC schoolchildren and nearby partner nonprofits. Through our Food Recovery and Meal Distribution programs we’re transforming 3,000 pounds of leftover, unwanted food into 5,000 daily meals for our neighbors in need. Our School Food program serves up another 6,000 healthy, locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals each day for low-income children in 10 DC schools.
From January to June 2015, we have:
- Prepared 914,738 meals for 80 DC social service agencies with 337,721 pounds of recovered food that would have otherwise been wasted.
- Served 516,247 healthy, scratch-cooked meals in 10 low-income DC schools with 146,085 pounds of produce purchased from local family owned farms.
And, like all DC Central Kitchen programs, our school food initiative and meal distribution program offer meaningful employment for graduates of our Culinary Job Training program.
At DC Central Kitchen we know we’ll never end hunger with food alone. That’s why our Culinary Job Training program addresses the root cause of hunger and unemployment: poverty. We operate eight job training classes a year, providing the knife and life skills our students need to launch lasting careers.
From January to June 2015, we have:
- Graduated 48 students from our Culinary Job Training program with an average wage of $11.64 at graduation. The average wage of these students has increased to $12.22 since June 30.
- Maintained full-time, meaningful employment for 60 of our own graduates right here at DC Central Kitchen, at a living wage with full medical benefits and a retirement plan.
Thanks to your support, we’re on track to provide more than 2.5 million meals to our most vulnerable neighbors and train 96 men and women for jobs in 2015.
We are proud to share our achievements from the first half of the year with you, and hope you will invest in DC Central Kitchen’s work again soon.
We’ve been sharing a lot recently about our 100th graduation and DCCK’s role as job creators in our community. Graduations are inspiring for lots of reasons, not just because of what the day represents for the men and women who complete the program. In the days that followed our 100th graduation, one notably inspiring story made its way around the organization.
Earl was a student of Class 100 who came to DCCK from a halfway house after spending 13 years in prison. You can’t miss him in a room — over 6 feet tall with a big build and a long beard, Earl’s smile is genuine and disarming. After incarceration, he was committed to making a career as a cook, and he approached our Culinary Job Training Program with diligence and enthusiasm. You could find Earl at any event that called for Class 100 student volunteers. In June, he even took to the outdoor grills at the Lamb Jam, a tasting event and competition that brings together talented chefs to compete for the Best Lamb Dish, to help one of the chefs keep up with demand at his tasting booth.
To commemorate our 100th graduation, DCCK was fortunate enough to receive a matching pledge of $10,000 from past and current board members, with a goal of raising another $10,000 in donations both at the ceremony and online in the days that followed.
That afternoon, Earl’s family was seated comfortably in the front row. His mother, easily recognizable given her similarly identifiable smile, was emotional before the ceremony got underway. After the announcement of our board match at the ceremony, several guests handed reply envelopes with their gifts to members of DCCK’s Development team.
A few hours later, our donor relations manager came across one particular envelope that contained a $100 bill and a short, handwritten note. “I’ve been carrying around this lucky $100 for 13 years,” the note said. “I don’t need it anymore.”
The note and generous gift was from Earl’s mother. She held on to that bill the entire time Earl was incarcerated, and on the day of his graduation from DC Central Kitchen, Earl’s mother passed on that luck to the men and women who will come to DCCK after him.
Of all of the gifts we received that day, this is the one that matters most. Earl is now employed full-time, making a living wage of $14.05/hour with full benefits as a cook at DC Central Kitchen. While we’ll never know how much luck that $100 provided, Earl’s hard work and dedication made for plenty of luck on its own. Earl has a job, a family he can spend time with, and a mother whose love for her son is truly unwavering. She retired last week, at a party attended by Earl’s culinary instructors; ending her career the same week Earl launched his.
Thank you to everyone who made a gift in honor of our 100th class. It is a milestone that represents years of hard work and changed lives for over 1,000 men and women who have come through DCCK since 1990.
To Earl’s mother – thank you for believing in your son and for supporting DC Central Kitchen through this heartfelt and generous gift.
“Good business” is a phrase we use a lot here at DC Central Kitchen. Good business means using every available resource to create positive outcomes, like when we employ chronically underemployed men and women from our Culinary Job Training program to serve healthy, locally sourced meals to 3,200 children at 10 low-income DC schools. That’s not charity—that’s good business for everyone.
But with summer approaching, the majority of DC’s schools will close from June to August, which means that most of our city’s school food staffers will be laid off while children who rely on school meals will have to look elsewhere for basic nutrition.
School closures make summer a time of hunger, even while local farms are producing excess amounts of fruits and vegetables just miles away. But DCCK has a solution. By providing full-time, year-round employment and health benefits to our school food staff, we can enlist them in the fight against summer hunger. Half of these DCCK employees will prepare healthy, kid-friendly meals and snacks for 30 summer camps and youth programs. The other half will work on processing, freezing, and storing summer’s bounty from local farms to ensure our access to quality fruits and vegetables year-round.
This approach will have a powerful impact on our community. All told this summer, we will:
- Procure and process 122,000 pounds of fresh, local produce,
- Invest $55,000 in area farmers,
- Prepare 75,000 nutritious summer meals and snacks for kids,
- Save DC summer youth programs $155,000 in food and personnel costs, and
- Provide meaningful, living wage employment to 15 DCCK culinary staffers.
Although we won’t be generating revenue from our school foods program during the summer months, DCCK will maintain employee salaries and benefits, purchase local produce in bulk, and deliver summer meals to low-income children who need them. Providing stable summer employment to at-risk adults, critical nutrition for kids, and vital wholesale revenue to local farmers growing healthy food is more than just the right thing to do. It’s good business, too.
Click here if you’d like to help make an investment in this strategic summer effort to fight child hunger, prevent the waste of healthy farm products, and sustain life-changing employment opportunities for our culinary graduates.
Thank you for supporting DC Central Kitchen. Your contribution is an investment in our work to combat hunger and create opportunity in DC.
On Friday, DC Central Kitchen joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo at the opening ceremony of the USDA Farmers Market. Located near the National Mall on 12th Street and Independence Ave SW, the market now includes more than 30 vendors and is open every Friday from 9am to 2pm through October 30, 2015.
The USDA Farmers Market plays an important role in creating economic opportunities for local farmers, and DCCK was honored to be a part of this event that celebrated that relationship. In the last fiscal year alone, DCCK invested $153,378 in local farms by purchasing more than 200,000 pounds of produce for our meals.
In addition to our local purchasing power, DCCK often gleans from DC area Farmers Markets, collecting leftover produce and unsold product that we can process with the help of volunteers in our industrial kitchen located just blocks from the United States Capitol. We will continue to glean product from the USDA Farmers Market this year as well.
To commemorate our longstanding relationship between DC Central Kitchen and the USDA Farmers Market, returning vendor Great Harvest Bread donated 100 loaves of honey whole wheat bread to DCCK after the opening ceremony.
If you haven’t checked out the stands at 12th and Independence, be sure to drop this season and support our local farmers!