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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Inside the Truck Farm: Bio-Intensive Gardening at DCCK

, July 22nd, 2014

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One of our favorite educational tools at DC Central Kitchen is the Truck Farm, a traveling mini-garden in the bed of a pick-up truck. We take the truck to schools and youth agencies to show children how healthy produce grows. Mike Pappas, the produce merchandising expert for our Healthy Corners program, planted the Truck Farm’s crops this season. It’s amazing how many vibrant veggies and fresh fruits Pappas can fit in the Truck Farm, so we asked Pappas how he does it and how anyone can use their own backyard, no matter how small, for an edible garden.

How do you garden in a way that maximizes the small amount of space in a truck bed?

Bio-intensive gardening is a way for backyard famers to maximize their space. It is a sustainable solution to growing food on a small scale. Bio-intensive gardening can be scaled up or down as big or small as you like, even in the back of a truck. For me, bio-intensive gardening has five central tenets: deep cultivation; planting in hexagonal patterns instead of traditional straight rows to allow for more room for plants; using lots of organic material such as compost; planting things that grow well together as companion plants; and caring for the synergy of the whole system of your garden.

What is ideal to grow in a bio-intensive garden?

Anything you want! It’s wise to have biodiversity. This includes grains, legumes, fruits, alliums, flowers. . . everything!

How can a family support themselves from a bio-intensive garden?

Bio-intensive gardens produce so much food. You can easily feed a family of four and have enough for your neighbors! This model of gardening has been taken to developing countries to improve nutrition and cultivate microenterprises.

How can people use a bio-intensive garden to foster their communities?

Do your own CSA for your neighborhood! CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and you can use your garden to help feed your neighbors. You can use the money you get for a CSA towards the next season’s costs of your garden.

What do you think is the future of bio-intensive gardening?

It’s going to be the wave of the future. There are many small urban and backyard farms burgeoning every year. The average age of a farmer is 58 or 60, but that’s definitely coming down as younger people are getting involved in farming on a much smaller scale. To have enough food to feed everyone in the world we’re going to have to do this kind of gardening.

For more tips and tricks, visit Ecology Action, an organization that researches bio-intensive farming methods and spreads them around the world. For inquiries about Truck Farm, please contact us.



Truck Farm Season Kicks Off

, April 17th, 2013

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Truck Farm is back! Last week DC Central Kitchen staff prepared the truck for its third year as a traveling, edible garden exhibit aimed at introducing the city’s youth to gardening and fresh, healthy foods. The bed of our Truck Farm is now growing carrots, snap peas, bush beans, lemon thyme, purple sage and about twenty other vegetables and herbs.

We’d like to thank our financial sponsors, the Aetna Foundation and the 15 Foundation, for making this work possible.   More thanks to Old City Farm and Guild for donating seedlings for last week’s planting and Johnson Florist and Garden Center for donating supplies.

During this year’s growing season, we will be taking the Truck Farm to visit kids at the youth agencies, schools, and Healthy Corners stores that we serve, as well as city farmers markets. During each visit we’ll introduce kids to gardening and show them that it really is possible to grow your own food right here in the city. Each hands on session allows kids to touch, smell and even taste fresh veggies and herbs.

The Truck Farm is an important part of our wrap-around approach to ending childhood hunger. The program generates enthusiasm about eating fresh foods and increases participation in the healthy, scratch-cooked meals we deliver to ten DC schools in Ward 5, 7, and 8 by using lessons to generate enthusiasm about the fresh fruits and vegetables on their lunch trays.



4 Ways Healthy Futures is Working for DC Neighborhoods

, December 20th, 2012

Changing Eating Habits
Our innovative and thoughtful way of preparing healthy meals at DC Public Schools has led to solid returns. The kids are eating healthier every day and bringing those healthy habits home.

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Building Partnerships with Small Businesses
Through Healthy Corners, we’ve partnered with 30 corner stores in Wards 5, 7, and 8 to provide fresh produce and healthy snacks at affordable prices. Not only are we investing in these stores and providing a new business opportunity, but we’re engaging the store owners to become crucial champions of change in their communities.

We’re also investing in local farms and buying much of our produce locally. Our Farm-to-School initiative engages farmers to become part of the solution by providing much of the healthy produce we serve.

Combating Childhood Hunger by Providing Three Square Meals
Together, our Healthy School Food initiative and Healthy Returns effort, which delivers meals and snacks to after school programs and summer camps, give kids healthy, scratch-cooked meals three times per day. And these meals are packed with fresh local produce, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Educating the Community
With our Truck Farm, school cooking demos, and community outreach efforts, we’re educating the entire community about nutrition. Last year, we educated over 9,800 individuals with hands-on strategies for healthy eating and an additional 2,300 children through the Truck Farm, an innovative traveling edible exhibit that teaches kids where food comes from.

You can be part of this success. Make a contribution this holiday season to promote health and combat hunger in DC neighborhoods.



Pioneering a ‘Wraparound’ Approach to Changing Lives

, December 17th, 2012

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At DC Central Kitchen, we change lives through the creative use of food. Across America, there are lots of organizations bringing healthy food to low-income children and families. It’s important work, and we’re glad to see conversations about hunger, obesity, and diet-related disease taking place at dinner tables and in the halls of Congress.

But helping kids and families lead healthier lives takes more than handing out strange new foods and saying “Eat this, it’s good for you.” At DCCK, we have pioneered a path-breaking ‘wraparound’ approach to changing behaviors and empowering people to live better.

Others have said that kids don’t want to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – and when these foods are served only occasionally, and in isolation from nutrition education and real engagement, they’re right! But our programs provide healthy food options in school, after school, during school vacations, and even to corner stores near DC schools.

By offering these items at so many places where children spend their time, we reinforce good decision making and give them the tools to grow up strong.

Our model starts in school, where we serve nearly 5,000 healthy, locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals to children enrolled at 10 DC schools. We focus on serving low-income neighborhoods, and many of the 2,000 schoolchildren we serve each day rely on us for three meals each day. When school is out of session, these kids face the threat of hunger. That’s why we distribute more than 100,000 nutritious meals and snacks to 35 youth programs and summer camps each year, helping nourish young people during school vacations.

And to help kids make smarter dietary choices on their own, we stock 30 corner stores in low-income neighborhoods with fresh produce and wholesome snacks through our Healthy Corners program. While other communities across America are searching for a solution to the lack of quality options on corner store shelves, DC Central Kitchen has become the only nonprofit to take on the central issue of distribution, making us a national leader in the struggle against ‘food deserts.’

We’re empowering our community to live healthier by bringing quality food to its schools, summer camps, and corner stores. Join our effort to build a healthier future today!



Give the Gift of a Brighter Future

, December 14th, 2012
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The holidays are a time for family, food, and renewed hope. In this season – and throughout the year – DC Central Kitchen brings all three together, helping struggling families access nutritious food and build brighter futures.

You can help build these brighter futures by donating today.

DC Central Kitchen uses fresh, local food to change the lives of low-income children and families. Our unique wraparound approach to child nutrition helps kids eat healthy in school, after school, during summer vacation, and even at their neighborhood corner stores.

Our fresh take on fighting hunger is making an impact. Last week, I opened an email from a special education teacher who works in one of the 10 DC schools where we serve healthy, scratch-cooked meals each day. “I cannot begin to tell you what a difference you have made,” she wrote. “As a teacher, I am very aware of the food that students eat, and the difference is amazing!”

Thank you for being a vital part of the work we do. Through Saturday, your gift will be matched 100 percent by the 15 Foundation. Donate now and double your impact!



Summertime Salads with the Truck Farm

, July 11th, 2012

Surviving heat waves, a “land hurricane“, and an oil geyser (parking lots are not prime farm land), the DCCK Truck Farm is still up and running with a busy schedule. Last week, we visited the Park Naylor Community Center’s summer program and the kids from M.O.M.I.E’s TLC, and this week we are working with youth from Covenant House DC, Jubilee Housing’s Activity Zone, and the Community Center at Benning Park.

Youth from the Jubilee Activity Zone smelling the peppermint.

 

Aside from exploring the truck, the Truck Farm team leads youth in pollinator crafts, seed paper strip making, and seed planting exercises. We also bring salad materials to many of the sites we visit. At a recent visit to King Towers, for example, kids in their summer program made a delicious mango, avocado, carrot salad.

The salad - ingredients prepped and put together by the kids at King Towers!

The salad – ingredients prepped and put together by the kids at King Towers!

Tossing the salad.

Tossing the salad.

Yum!!

Yum!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week we have a full schedule – site visits every day, and sometimes twice a day! Look forward to another post next Wednesday. As always, come see us at the USDA People’s Garden Farmers Market every Friday from 10 am to 2 pm.

Truck Farmers Adam and Matt with the kids from King Towers.

Truck Farmers Adam and Matt with the kids from King Towers.