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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Join DCCK on June 4 for #DoMore24

, May 19th, 2015

take 2As a proud member of the United Way of the National Capital Area, DC Central Kitchen will again participate in the third annual Do More 24 fundraiser on Thursday, June 4. This one-day fundraiser is a local movement that encourages our community to contribute to local causes and organizations to solve our region’s most pressing challenges. More than 500 nonprofits that serve in D.C., Maryland and Virginia will participate this year.

There are several ways you can get involved and support DC Central Kitchen in Do More 24:

1. Donate.  As we get closer to June 4 we’ll share the URL that will allow your contribution to support DCCK’s #DoMore24 fundraising efforts.

2. Come to our event! On Thursday, June 4 from 5-7pm, DCCK will host our very own #DoMore24 happy hour at the Gordon Biersch located in Gallery Place (900 F Street, NW). Enjoy free passed appetizers and proceeds from the “charity keg” benefit the campaign. Come get some free swag, eat and drink with friends, and support Do More 24!

3. Tell your friends! Invite your personal networks to join us on June 4! The more the merrier.

3. Keep following us! While we’re on several social platforms, most of our #DoMore24 updates will live on Twitter. Retweets welcome!

As always, thank you for supporting DC Central Kitchen. We hope you’ll join us on June 4 and give where you live.

For more information on Do More 24 visit the event website.

 

 

 



DC Central Kitchen serves up 108 dishes in 3 hours for the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

, May 17th, 2015

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For the fourth year in a row, DC Central Kitchen’s school foods team was chosen to prep, cook, and plate more than 100 dishes based on recipes submitted by young people in all 50 states. The catch? It had to be done in a mere three hours!

First Lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Education teamed up again this year to create the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ State Dinner – a competition that engages kids ages 8-12 in creating an original, healthy recipe. Finalists’ recipes were cooked and plated by DCCK on May 15th for the official judging, and one winner from each of the 50 states will be selected and have the opportunity to attend a Kids’ State Dinner at the White House in July.

It took more than a week’s worth of planning to prepare for last week’s event, which included recipes like sriracha shrimp over quinoa with vegetables, a sweet turkey chili with kidney beans, and fish tacos. Judges included Debra Eschmeyer of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, representatives from the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture, as well as two kid graduates of Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters class.

DC Central Kitchen’s culinary team while busy in the week’s leading up to the judging, were well-suited to cook and plate the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge kid-created recipes. As the primary school food provider for 10 DC schools, DC Central Kitchen knows a thing or two about developing meals kids will actually eat. From our Fresh Feature Friday taste-testing activity that engages young people in their very own lunchtime ‘food democracy,’ to the 6,300 locally-sourced, scratch-cooked, healthy meals served every day to kids in DC’s low-income communities – DCCK has what it takes to meet the incredible task of assembling more than 100 healthy recipes in a short period of time.

You can learn more about our school foods program in our latest annual report.



DCCK helps kick off 20th season of the USDA’s Farmers Market

, May 4th, 2015

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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!

 



CJT Class 99 celebrates graduation with a full house

, April 13th, 2015

DC Central Kitchen’s most recent Culinary Job Training class marked the end of 14 weeks of training and the beginning of their future at last Friday’s graduation ceremony.

The Walmart-sponsored class was joined by friends, family, DCCK staff and alumni, and esteemed guests at the U.S. Navy Memorial and Heritage Center to commemorate the achievements of Class 99.

Nina Albert, Director, Public Affairs and Government Relations for Walmart gave the keynote address in which she remarked that it’s not just about hard work, but the courage to go after your dreams that makes someone successful in life.

Class 99 had a lot to celebrate. Current employers include Marriott Key Bridge, Nando’s PERi-PERi, Clyde’s Restaurant, Levy Restaurant, and CulinAerie. Students are earning an average hourly wage of $12.00/hour.

During the course of the program students welcomed esteemed guest chefs Vera Oye’ Yaa-Anna (The Palaver Hut) and Rock Harper (Chef and DCCK supporter) and participated in field trips to L’Academie de Cuisine and Jaleo DC.

Internship partner sites for Class 99 included:
Aramark – American University
Boqueria DC
Clyde’s Chinatown
CulinAerie
Levy Restaurants
Marriott Key Bridge
Nando’s PERi-PERi
Ritz Carlton
Sodexo at Marymount
Sodexo at Trinity
Sodexo at USCCB
Sodexo at Venable
Water and Wall Restaurant

Thank you to the Walmart Foundation, our many guest chefs, and our internship and restaurant partners for supporting Class 99. Without you, DC Central Kitchen would never be able to continue our work creating opportunity in DC. Thank you!

If you missed this graduation, be sure to mark your calendar and join us to celebrate the achievements of Class 100 on July 10!

For more images from this celebratory event, be sure to visit our Flickr page.



DCCK guest post: A visitor from across the pond

, March 31st, 2015

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My name is Vikas, and I’m the CEO of a group of companies based in Manchester, United Kingdom.  I spend about one third of all my time on philanthropic projects. I had read a lot over the years about DC Central Kitchen, and during a recent visit to an international trade summit in Washington, D.C. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pay them a visit.

A wonderfully warm greeting was my first experience of DC Central Kitchen (DCCK), and within minutes of arriving and I was engrossed in conversation with a smartly dressed and confident woman, Tarina (pictured above), in a DC Central Kitchen uniform telling me about how wonderful this organization was.  It was just half an hour later that this woman would tell me her story, describing how she was an ex-convict, spent part of her life homeless, and never thought she would ever get away from her drug and alcohol addictions.  My host (Andy, the organization’s COO) also told me that when he first met this lady she was introverted, isolated and broken.  Just one year later, here she was – one of the warmest, happiest and most confident people you could wish to meet, a transformation she attributes to DC Central Kitchen.

In 25 years, DCCK has grown from being an idea to becoming an organization with an annual budget of $13 million and more than 150 employees. The numbers are staggering: DC Central Kitchen prepares and distributes close to 1 million meals a year for local nonprofits, including homeless shelters, rehabilitation clinics, and afterschool programs. Aside from the (obvious) nutritional impact, their meal distribution program also saves their nonprofit partners close to $3.7 million in food costs.

Given that close to 100% of their Culinary Job Training program cohort arrived facing severe life challenges – the majority having periods of incarceration, drug or alcohol abuse issues, and chronic unemployment – it’s incredible that in 2014, the program’s graduates had a 93% job placement rate (one graduate is even a cook at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for the White House).

“We want to be a model for businesses,” Andy said to me. “We’re a living wage employer, and we want to show people that you can run a business, change lives, and make a profit in the process…”

Similarly unusual in the sector is the distance they manage to keep between the hard-reality of running a non-profit, and the soul needed to bind together souls.

A tour of the kitchen was the next wonderful part of my journey, meeting dozens of graduates of DCCK’s program whose lives had been transformed with a mix of empowerment classes, structured (paid) work opportunities, and the chance to build a new family within DCCK’s walls. The atmosphere is light, fun, and much like a ‘start-up,’ but behind this exterior is a very serious social enterprise, one that operates with the efficiency of a for-profit entity while supporting DCCK’s training program.

That’s all before we even look at their national sister organization, The Campus Kitchens Project (replicating DCCK’s core activities at college and high schools throughout the US).

By this point, I was hugely inspired by DCCK when I met Jeff Rustin. Jeff has been with the organization for just over four years and runs their daily empowerment program (and much, much, more).  He is exactly the mentor that every young person in the USA should have, and told me stories of many of the people they’ve helped, including one harrowing account of a woman who was beaten to within an inch of her life by her partner, and had put her four young kids to bed in their car for their own safety, on one of the coldest days of the year.  When Jeff reached them, the children were practically frost-bitten and he took them to hospital, along with their mother, and started working with them.  Only a short time later, the family is doing well, has a home of their own, and two of the kids are even in college. They’re so grateful, that Jeff gets a Father’s Day card from them.  This is just one of thousands of stories DCCK sees.

One of the most powerful things DC Central Kitchen has is its authenticity. This is not a charity that just means well, but one that is made up of people that have been through, experienced, and overcome the challenges that their beneficiaries face in their daily lives. Jeff recounted the story of speaking to a group of young men, who had histories of incarceration, and who were struggling to connect to him and his other speaker.

“I still know my number!” he told them (speaking of the unique number each inmate gets when they go to prison). “….I  asked these young guys, who has a number lower than mine? Come on! Stand up! Nobody did…” Having spent many of his formative years in jail (before most of his audience were even born), he has turned his life around in the most profound way possible and now helps thousands of people to do the same.  “People need to have faith, I’m not talking about God, but they need faith in something, and most of all, themselves….”

Poverty is endemic in the developed world.  Whether you go to Europe, the USA or elsewhere – behind the wonderful shiny exterior of business hotels, conferences, and tradeshows is the reality of cities where, as in the case of most American cities, one in four people are excluded from the economy.  Organizations like DC Central Kitchen give the support people need to thrive, and also- frankly- to survive, and that’s good for everyone.

During my time with DCCK, I asked a number of people I met what it was that kept them so close to the organization.  Unanimously, the answer I got from every single person was single, “family.”



Jacques Pépin’s 80th birthday and a cake made by DCCK

, March 29th, 2015

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Women’s Empowerment Class 2 got the chance to test their pastry skills last week while they worked to create one of more than 80 birthday cakes made by culinary professionals to celebrate Jacques Pépin’s 80th birthday on Friday.

The International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) honored Pépin at its annual conference, which kicked-off on Friday night with a staggering 80 birthday cakes made by some of the biggest names in the culinary world, including DC Central Kitchen’s culinary students.

DCCK students had the great fortune of working with Willow co-owner and pastry chef Kate Jansen, who volunteered her time to help the class bake, build, and decorate their cake that would be presented alongside works by Spago pastry chef Della Gossett, Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes, and DC-based Paisley Fig Bakery, among many others.

The excitement didn’t end with our cake on Friday night. On Sunday, DCCK was again recognized by the IACP during their awards luncheon where DCCK CEO Mike Curtin accepted the Local Community Service Award on behalf of the Kitchen. The award recognizes the work of a member of the local community who has had an important and indelible impact on the Annual Conference host city.

DCCK was honored to be involved in this incredible weekend with IACP. For providing Chef Pépin’s 80 cakes experience for our students, for recognizing DCCK for our work impacting DC residents, and for the countless other internships, jobs, and opportunities provided by culinary professionals to our graduates – thank you!