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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Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie Gives Keynote at Class 97 Graduation

, October 22nd, 2014


It was another packed house at DC Central Kitchen’s Class 97 graduation ceremony on October 10. Friends, family and esteemed guests joined DCCK staff, CJT graduates, and current CJT students at the commemorative event held at the U.S. Navy Memorial and Heritage Center.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie gave the keynote address, during which he spoke about his own story of success and the journey that brought him to public service. Though today the Councilmember is a law school graduate, he faced serious barriers in pursuing higher education. Raised by a working-class family in Northeast DC, Councilmember McDuffie worked as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service before attending college and becoming the first male in his family ever to graduate from college.

Like many of our students, McDuffie knew he was capable of more, but had to seek the courage to try and maintain the perseverance to meet his own potential.

“Class 97, always remember your struggle, but never jeopardize the investments you’ve made.” -Councilmember McDuffie

Sixteen out of 20 Class 97 graduates have already secured employment with an average starting wage of $12.07 per hour. Employers include the newly opened Willie’s Brew and Que, owned by former culinary job training instructor Chef Rock Harper, Sodexo food services at Venable and Howard University, Nando’s, CulinAerie, and Burger Works. The remaining graduates will continue to receive employment support from DCCK, including resume preparation, mock interviews, and job placement.

DC Central Kitchen’s graduation is always a high-energy, festive event that marks the end of a rigorous 14-week commitment our students have made not only to their culinary training, but to the self-empowerment and life skills they need to be successful in their lives and careers.

Thank you to everyone who joined us, and for the investments of our friends and champions that help make DCCK’s Culinary Job Training program a reality.

Check out more great photos from Class 97′s graduation ceremony on our Flickr page.


Healthy Corners Program Doubles in Size

, September 10th, 2014

hc expand

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!

Chef Mastermind Tim Ma Mentors DCCK Students

, August 4th, 2014

Tim  Ma teaches DCCK students

The restaurant industry is a tough business. Our Culinary Job Training program is designed to give at-risk women and men the skills and self-confidence they need to succeed in challenging workplaces, and we rely on industry leaders to bring their real-world insight and incredible stories to our basement kitchen.

In the fourth week of each CJT class, we welcome top chefs from the DC restaurant scene for a special ‘Heritage Day’ that exposes our students to new regional cuisines, preparation techniques, and the personal stories of people who have built culinary careers. Chef Tim Ma, of the acclaimed Maple Ave Restaurant and brand-new Water & Wall restaurant, stopped by DCCK last week with his team of kitchen all-stars to instruct and inspire our 97th Culinary Job Training class.

Coming to Heritage Day is a great way for my team to come in and share their wide breadth of knowledge in a broader way than they’re able to at our restaurants.–Chef Tim Ma

Chef Ma’s team—Chefs de Cusine Nyi Nyi Myint and Michael Johnson and Sous Chef Juste Zidelyte—brought recipes inspired by their own personal backgrounds in Burmese, Southern American, and Lithuanian cuisine, respectively. They took our students on a culinary world tour, with an Asian-inspired crispy branzino with fried rice, a pan-roasted pork tenderloin with peach sauce over creamy grits, and a Lithuanian chilled beet soup.

But just as importantly, our guest instructors brought their own tales of triumphing in tough jobs. Chef Ma sold everything he owned — even his car — to make his way through culinary school, gave up everything he had to open his first restaurant, and almost lost it before finding his niche.

After hearing Ma’s story, one of our students remarked, “It was so great to hear about Chef Ma’s struggles and adversity. I really wasn’t able to picture myself succeeding in cooking until today.”

You can see Class 97 graduate on October 10th, at 2pm at the US Naval Memorial and Heritage Center at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. And don’t miss Chef Tim Ma as he battles in this year’s Capital Food Fight on November 11th at the Ronald Reagan Building! You can follow all the Capital Food Fight action on Twitter @dcckfoodfight.

Restaurant Partner Profile: Willow Restaurant

, July 13th, 2014


Chefs and restaurateurs are busy people. So why do Chef/Owners Tracy O’Grady and Kate Jansen of Willow Restaurant spend hours of their precious free time in our kitchen?

Personally, I’m always inspired by the programs and the folks who beat the odds with the help of DC Central Kitchen. DCCK focuses on long-term solutions, which is key.- Tracy O’Grady, Willow Restaurant

DCCK’s partners like the team at Willow are a big part of helping us carry out those long-term solutions by directly working with DCCK’s students and staff, and expanding our network of supporters.

“There is no more generous group with their time than our friends in the hospitality business, and Tracy and Kate live that every day,” says DC Central Kitchen CEO Mike Curtin. “As a recovering restaurateur, I understand the immense demands on their time, yet they give of that time freely and lovingly in ways that continue to change lives and inspire others.”

Over the last fifteen years, Kate and Tracy have taught guest lessons through our Culinary Job Training Program and participated in “Heritage Days”—special events where top chefs prepare their favorite dishes with our students and offer advice about building a career as a chef.

Kate and Tracy also started a mentoring program for our female students with women of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier, of which Kate and Tracy are members. The “Les Dames,” as they are affectionately called, offer advice, support, and friendship for the women in our program (and also treat all of our students to an incredible brunch the morning of their graduation day). Most recently, Tracy and Kate teamed up with Will Artley of Pizzeria Orso, a long-time supporter of DCCK and a current board member, to organize a fundraiser at Willow.

“We are foot soldiers for the kitchen,” said Tracy, who is also a DCCK board member. “We do not have huge resources to donate, but we participate every year in small ways. I think our importance to the Kitchen is our long-term support, and I think others can support in that way as well.”

DCCK’s Director of Job Training, Marianne Ali, has seen first-hand the impact of Kate and Tracy’s long-term support. “It is apparent,” Marianne said, “that even in their busy restaurateur lives, Kate and Tracy ALWAYS hold DCCK near and dear to their hearts.” And for that, we are very grateful.

Be sure to check out the Willow Team at the D.C. BRGR Bash on Saturday, July 19! For every slider Willow sells, D.C. BRGR Bash will donate $0.50 to DC Central Kitchen. Willow is the defending champion—so we can guarantee the burger will be good.

Get your tickets on Eventbrite here. The first 50 people to use the promo code “IHEARTWILLOW” will get $5 off.

Corporate Partnerships

, June 4th, 2014
CJT Grads + Walmart

Alex Barron, Regional General Manager of Wal-Mart, meeting Culinary Job Training students at their graduation ceremony. Walmart has become a major partner, investing crucial resources into DCCK’s job training initiatives and fundraising events.

Corporate social responsibility is more than a buzzword—it’s a powerful way of growing your business, engaging your employees, and investing in the community we call home. Here in the Washington, DC region, there are thousands of groups doing good, which can make selecting charitable partners difficult.

DC Central Kitchen has been changing lives in our community for 25 years, and we’re here to help you make a meaningful difference where you live and work.

We are a nationally acclaimed nonprofit organization that fights hunger by preparing 5,000 healthy meals for hungry community members each day while training unemployed women and men for careers in the culinary industry. Our empowering model doesn’t believe in hand outs. We offer our at-risk neighbors a hand up, shortening this city’s line of hungry people by the way we feed it.

We don’t think nonprofits should rely totally on hand outs, either. We earn 60% of our annual income through social enterprises, employing our very own culinary graduates to serve healthy school meals, provide corporate catering, and deliver nutritious snacks to corner stores in low-income neighborhoods. DC Central Kitchen makes the most of our donors’ dollars by running our operations with the efficiency of a business—it’s just that our primary service is changing lives.

In our Corporate Social Responsibility Packet, you’ll learn about the many ways DC Central Kitchen can help you meet your CSR goals. Whether you’re interested in volunteering in our kitchen, ordering our catering, or attending our famous events, your company can help us fight hunger and poverty in our community in the ways that make the most sense for you.

For more information, please contact:
Alexander Moore, Director of Development:

Corporate Social Responsibility Packet (PDF)
Capital Food Fight 2014 Sponsorship Prospectus

Meals Making a Difference at Life Skills Center

, November 18th, 2013
Clients at the Life Skills Center, one of our newest partner nonprofits that receive meals.

Clients at the Life Skills Center, one of our newest partner nonprofits that receive meals.

This September, DC Central Kitchen started providing lunches to the Life Skills Center, a day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. According to J.C. Hodges, Program Director of the Life Skills Center, the meals are already having a big impact.

A lot of people have already noticeably lost weight and their families are even commenting on it.
- J.C. Hodges, Program Director of the Life Skills Center

Health concerns can easily turn into a secondary disability for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so encouraging fitness and good nutrition is a priority at the Life Skills Center. Hodges says that in the past, staff would emphasize the importance of making healthy choices and encourage clients to eat fruits and vegetables in nutrition lessons, but didn’t see these foods in their clients’ diets.

Before DC Central Kitchen began providing lunches, everyone would bring in their own lunch from home, or bring money to buy lunch in the neighborhood. All of the Center’s clients are eligible for Medicaid and their caregivers are often preparing meals on a very limited budget.

While some brought in as little as yogurt and a bag of chips, others regularly showed up with meat and potatoes or purchased food from the neighborhood carryout. Hodges noted that one client would regularly bring in a chicken breast with a big serving of white rice and two tortillas and then immediately fall asleep after finishing his lunch. Others would even stay home at times because their family was unable to send a meal with them.

Realizing that a reliable, nutritious lunch would be a boon to both clients and their families, Hodges reached out to Crystal Nicholas, DC Central Kitchen’s Partnership Program Manager, who was able to help.

Now that clients are receiving balanced meals complete with fruits and vegetables, the staff are noticing that they have a lot more energy and they’ve even seen a noticeable change in behavior problems.

The lunches have really have been awesome, we’re getting nutritious meals with fruits and vegetables and when there are leftovers people actually argue over who gets to eat them.
- explains Hodges.

Because of DC Central Kitchen, the Life Skills Center is now able to serve lunches that reinforce what they’re teaching clients in their nutrition education classes.