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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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.

Hubbard Place: Growing Up Healthy With DCCK’s Meals

, November 17th, 2013
hubbard place for story

DCCK provides healthy snacks and dinners to children at Hubbard Place.

Hubbard Place is a special place, and just the right kind of place for DC Central Kitchen. The Hubbard Place Resident Service Program provides educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities to the members of its community, which includes an after school program for kids, through which DCCK provides snacks and dinner every weekday.

The menus DCCK provides for Hubbard Place is chock full of fresh fruits and vegetables and flavorful foods such as Mediterranean chicken. When they see fresh vegetables from DCCK on their plates, they’re already well acquainted with them.

The kids are familiar with the produce they’re served and appreciate it in part because of the community garden a couple of blocks away. The kids also appreciate the menu DCCK provides for the month and they excitedly look forward to their favorite meals.

Because this is a tight knit community, the kids know each other well. Most of them live here, or go to school together. They love coming together and eating dinners from DC Central Kitchen together.
- explains Brenda Thomas, the Youth Development Specialist of Hubbard Place’s after school program.

Amelia Foley, Healthy Returns and Nutrition Outreach Coordinator at DCCK, visits Hubbard Place regularly and teaches the kids nutritional lessons incorporating healthy snacks. Foley also brings fun snack activities like ghost shaped banana slices and pumpkin shaped mandarin oranges for Halloween.

The kids get so excited when Amelia comes. The support from the Kitchen is great.
- Brenda Thomas

In fact, the kids at Hubbard Place’s after school program love the fresh food DC Central Kitchen provides so much that they don’t even notice the glow of the snack and soda vending machines in the hallway just outside their doors.

Where Our Meals Go

, September 12th, 2013

Meals for our partner nonprofits

Every day, DC Central Kitchen prepares and distributes an average of 5,000 meals to 88 nonprofit organizations throughout DC. Feeding is not the goal of our work, but it’s an important first step to empowering men and women to change their lives.

Each of our partner agencies plays a critical role in meeting the diverse needs of our community. By providing them with quality meals at little or no costs, we save these agencies more than $3.6 million in food and labor costs each year—strengthening our social safety net and helping the nonprofit sector make the most of our donors’ dollars.

Here we take a closer look at the types of agencies we serve. By providing meals to these types of nonprofit organizations, we’re offsetting their food costs and freeing up their resources to focus on unique programming.

Emergency Shelters
Emergency shelters, such as the Catholic Charities New York Avenue Emergency Shelter and La Casa Multicultural Center, serve thousands of homeless men and women throughout the District and provide crucial refuge, especially during inclement weather.

Women’s Programs
We serve meals to programs like Rachael’s Women’s Center, which provide special support to women overcoming homelessness and substance abuse. In addition to our food, these women can access basic health services, case management, social support networks, free legal assistance, and substance abuse and recovery support.

Rehabilitation Programs
While emergency shelters provide short-term housing, rehabilitation programs such as Clean and Sober Streets and Blair House offer longer-term stability and support to men and women recovering from substance abuse or reentering society after prison.

Workforce Development Programs
Job training programs, like the SOME Center for Employment Training and the Covenant House Washington’s Work Readiness Education and Training Center, play a crucial role in empowering men and women to rebuild their lives while receiving case management and job placement assistance.

After School Programs
Through our Healthy Returns initiative, we serve healthy, scratch-cooked meals to agencies serving youth such as the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Benning Courts Apartments Community Center. These organizations help young people prepare for brighter futures with mentoring, counseling, nutrition and health education, and job readiness training. Since partnering with DC Central Kitchen, many of these agencies have reported an increase in attendance and retention rates.

Outreach Programs
Programs like Thrive DC use food as a gateway to providing supportive case management services and outreach to homeless men and women. These ‘low-barrier’ services help severely at-risk individuals take the first crucial steps along their road to recovery.


How We’re Engaging Local Businesses

, June 14th, 2013
We've partnered with 30 corner stores to deliver fresh fruits and veggies to DC neighborhoods without fully stocked grocery stores.

We’ve partnered with 30 corner stores to deliver fresh fruits and veggies to DC neighborhoods without fully stocked grocery stores.

We couldn’t do our work without our growing list of business partnerships. Here’s a recap of their amazing contributions.

Local Restaurants
Restaurants have always been an integral part of what we do. It all started in 1989 when our founder, Robert Egger, started recovering food from local restaurants, hotels, and catering operations to be used in meals to feed hungry district residents. Since then, restaurants have given us much more than leftovers. From participating in our events to providing internships and job opportunities for our culinary students, restaurants are the bread and butter of what makes DC Central Kitchen work.

Local Farmers
When we do have to buy food, we’re committed to buying local. In 2012, we invested $156,523 into our area economy by purchasing produce and meat from area farmers. We increased the total poundage of locally sourced food in our meals by 22% from 2011. Last year, 30% of all of the ingredients used in our school meals were locally sourced.

DC Corner Stores
We’re combating poor health and creating opportunities for small businesses through Healthy Corners, our wholesale delivery service that provides fresh fruits and veggies to communities without fully stocked supermarkets. In 2012, our 30 partner corner stores sold $33,000 worth of fresh produce.

Food Distributors
In 2012, our Nutrition Lab facility in Northeast DC facilitated the recovery of 320,000 pounds of fresh produce from local food distributors. These are good fruits and veggies that are fresh and healthy, but are not perfect enough for sale. Our relationships with these distributors have led them to increase their donations over the years, allowing us to make our donations go further.

Last year, we received over $432,949 dollars in workplace giving campaign contributions from employees working at local businesses and government agencies based in the region. We’re proud of their support and their efforts to get more involved in our work by volunteering and hosting group fundraisers.

DC Central Kitchen receives significant financial and in-kind support from local corporate partners. We’re proud to have many of our corporate partners listed as top corporate philanthropists by the Washington Business Journal, including Capital One, Clark Enterprises, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Geppetto Catering, and many others.