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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DC Central Kitchen

News for School Food

, October 24th, 2013

Food Day: 8 Ways We Use Food To Change Lives

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.

, October 23rd, 2013

Growing Healthy Schools Week

On Monday, Chef Ed competed against other chefs to kick off Growing Healthy Schools Week

On Monday, our own Chef Ed  competed against other chefs at Thurgood Marshall Academy to kick off Growing Healthy Schools Week

Monday marked the start of Growing Healthy Schools Week here in DC, an annual celebration of local, seasonal foods filled with special activities to engage students in the farm-to-table process.

DC Central Kitchen works closely with dozens of small, local farmers to ensure that more than 30% of all the food items we purchase are grown nearby, and we love to participate in events like these that encourage students to try new healthy foods and learn more about where they come from.

We have seen in our own schools that opportunities for interaction beyond the lunch line such as cooking classes, cooking demonstrations, and Fresh Feature Friday taste tests provide real opportunities for changing kids’ taste buds and eating habits.

To kick things off for the week the DC Farm to School Network hosted a chef competition at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Anacostia. DC Central Kitchen’s Chef Ed Kwitowski and Katie Nash, RD, participated, preparing a potato and sweet pepper hash, using ingredients gathered from the school’s garden.

Students from schools around the city watched the chefs in action and then judged the finished dishes. The competition was close, with only one student vote deciding the winning dish, but we’d like to give our team kudos for relying so heavily on garden fresh ingredients!

In celebration of Food Day on Thursday, our school food team will hold a cooking demonstration for students at Kelly Miller Middle School, teaching them how to prepare a kale and local pear salad. Chef Ed has created this recipe using ingredients found from our Healthy Corners stores, one of those being Capitol View Market which is located just blocks away from Kelly Miller Middle School.

DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners program distributes fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy snacks to 32 city corner stores like Capital View Market, which are located in parts of the city which lack sufficient access to nutritious food options.

After the event at the school, Chef Ed will visit to Capitol View Market to share the demonstration with parents and other members of the community. DC Central Kitchen’s Truck Farm will along for both stops to show where food comes from and that it can be grown right here in the city. We will share pictures and a recipe later this week!

, October 14th, 2013

Slideshow: Locally Sourced, Scratch-Cooked School Meals

Every day, DC Central Kitchen produces 4,800 locally sourced, scratch-cooked meals for 10 DC schools. Here is a selection of some of our favorite healthy dishes made right here in DC and sourced from local farms.

, August 29th, 2013

Healthy School Food: Nourishing a Just Future

healthyschoolfoodWhen the first bell of the new school year rang on Monday morning, DC Central Kitchen was already busy turning local produce into healthy, scratch-cooked meals at 10 DC schools. The 5,500 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners we prepare each day nourish nearly 3,000 low-income children while generating sustainable revenue for our poverty-fighting programs.

School food is our biggest social enterprise, but it doesn’t just raise dollars. It raises awareness too, serving as an inspiring model for how nonprofits can be better businesses and how businesses can be better community members. In light of this week’s March on Washington to commemorate the important, but yet unfinished work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, it is time to remember that structural inequality remains a painful fact of life for far too many. The repercussions of racial and economic injustice run deep, causing not only hunger, but the perpetuation of a truly unjust food system in DC and cities across America.

Nearly 13 percent of District residents are still considered “food insecure,” but this number masks gross racial inequalities. African Americans in DC are unemployed at more than twice the rate of white residents, and fully 40% of African American children are at risk of going hungry. Persistent poverty has restricted the access of entire neighborhoods to affordable healthy food options, including the fresh produce so many others take for granted at their favorite supermarket.

Ultimately, issues of economic and social justice are strongly tied to food access – and education is perhaps the most critical battleground in the fight for equality. We know the crucial role that nutrition plays in educational outcomes. Children that lack access to food, especially nutritious fresh food, are less likely to succeed in school.

The exciting news is that DC Central Kitchen has become the city’s laboratory for testing meaningful solutions for these problems. In low-income neighborhoods where nutritious food is hard to find, our efforts are changing the way our community eats. We’re reinforcing our work in schools by partnering with 30 DC corner stores to provide healthy snacks at affordable prices so that when kids go home, they can continue to make healthy choices. We’re also working with the DC Department of Health to educate low-income parents so their households can take full advantage of these innovative programs.

Detractors often say that kids will never eat healthy food, that changing eating habits is an impossible task. But we’re already seeing these amazing transformations where kids not only enjoy our healthy meals, but are bringing it home. Through cooking demonstrations and taste tests, we’re introducing kids to new ways of eating that will greatly improve their quality of life. More students are choosing to eat our meals and throwing away less of their food—when it comes to our success, the proof is in the produce.

Perhaps most importantly, we’re getting at the root of hunger and failing food systems by taking on the root cause of poverty. The meals we produce for the schools are largely prepared by graduates of our Culinary Job Training program, which empowers unemployed, marginalized men and women to change their lives and find stable employment. We’ve hired more than 60 of these graduates at living wages with full benefits, and they are ones bringing healthy, dignified food to underserved neighborhoods. Most of our graduates are from the very communities we serve. DC Central Kitchen isn’t a bunch of do-gooders handing out groceries or cups of soup. We’re job creators making lasting investments in our hometown.

With the intergenerational cycle of poverty, hunger, and poor health unbroken in far too many families, it’s impossible to say that we’ve fulfilled Dr. King’s vision of real social equality. Food, no matter how healthy it is, will never be a solution by itself. But DC Central Kitchen is proving that it can be a powerful tool in nourishing a brighter future.

, July 11th, 2013

Healthy Meals at DC Public Schools: A Year in Review

dcpsAt DC Central Kitchen, we love disproving myths about the food and the people we serve. Take the myth that children, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, won’t eat their fruits and vegetables—let alone ask for seconds.

We know better, because we’ve watched children do just that in the ten schools where we’ve served over 850,000 breakfast, lunch and supper meals this past school year. What’s our secret?

First, we buy locally, packing our meals with fresh items from area farms. Over the 2012-2013 school year, we invested over $140,000 dollars in local farms. That’s almost double the $77,000 we spent on these items last year!

Second, we get local buy-in, engaging students, teachers, and parents in creative surveys and taste tests that help us improve our recipes. This year, Chef Ed Kwitowski, Chef Christina Brown, and dietitian Katie Nash of our school food team conducted more nutrition outreach events that exposed students to new foods, flavors, and even cooking skills.

At our special Fresh Feature Friday events, kids tasted broccoli, chickpeas, collard greens, strawberries, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, each prepared three different ways, and voted on their favorite. Winning recipes became part of our monthly menu! In our cooking classes, pre-K and middle school students prepared root vegetable latkes, spaghetti squash and banana bread. At our black history month cooking demonstrations, students tasted the sweet potato corn bread and raw collards salad recipe of DCCK employee and culinary graduate Anand Shantam–and went home with recipes to share.

What we’ve seen at these events goes against the myth that kids just won’t eat healthy foods. In fact, if you take a look at our Pinterest page, you’ll see plenty of pictures of kids enjoying these fruits and veggies in our cooking classes and at our demonstrations. They’re giving all of these fruits and vegetables and honest try–and finding that they like a good number of them along the way. That’s a great way to end the school year and fuel up for a summer of fun!

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DC Central Kitchen

425 2nd St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Near Union Station)
United Way# 8233, CFC# 67538
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