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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Updates for Volunteering

Connecting 15,000 Volunteers to Our Mission

, July 16th, 2014


In late spring, DC Central Kitchen Volunteer Manager Pertula George-Redd introduced a new, interactive volunteer orientation. With 15,000 volunteers working at the Kitchen each year, the orientation is a powerful way to share why our mission and our work is so important.

“A lot of volunteers don’t know that much about hunger in DC or how DC Central Kitchen’s programs are helping. I think volunteers want to learn more, and find out where and how they can help. That’s why it’s so important to really discuss what their work in the kitchen means.” -Pertula George-Redd, Volunteer Manager

There are two orientation activities, each designed to stimulate a meaningful discussion about hunger and poverty in DC. In one activity, volunteers read a card with a statement like, “stand up if you had breakfast this morning,” and on the opposite side of the card is a statistic about food insecurity. In the other activity, volunteers are asked to consider what expenses they would cut based on a specific low-income family scenario and budget.

One volunteer wrote in a follow-up survey, “I really enjoyed the orientation, and the cards helped [me] gain a better appreciation of the very real issues facing those less fortunate in our community.” Both activities are simple ways to get volunteers to learn about and better relate to the challenges low income Americans face trying to make ends meet. The orientation activities provide a much needed a desired context for the work each volunteer does in the kitchen.

A simple change like this can have a tremendous impact on the community when volunteers leave the kitchen better informed about the very real issues of hunger and poverty, and also filled with the efficacy to take action to help strengthen our community.

Check out our new volunteer orientation yourself by signing yourself (or a group of friends or co-workers) up for a volunteer shift:

Volunteer Profile: Suga Chef Brings Style, Sweets to DCCK

, July 11th, 2014

Chef Padua Player, aka Suga Chef, poses with the students of the first Central Union Mission CJT class and the orange soufflé he helped them make.

The students of the first Culinary Job Training class at Central Union Mission yesterday got their first taste of cooking sweets this week thanks to Chef Padua Playa, aka Suga Chef, who taught the students how to make a cold orange soufflé.

Chef Padua won the High Stakes Cakes competition at our 10th annual Capital Food Fight in November, but his history with DC Central Kitchen goes beyond that. He first became acquainted with the Kitchen when his cousin graduated from the Culinary Job Training Program seven years ago. Chef Padua has been coming back ever since. “Coming to the Kitchen gives me some grounding. It’s nice to give back to people who actually appreciate it, and it’s rewarding too.”

The orange soufflé lesson was a perfect complement to the class’s emphasis on eggs this week in their culinary instruction. Chef Padua chose the dessert because it is cool, refreshing, and light, perfect for D.C.’s hot summers. “This was a fascinating cooking experience. I never thought you could use eggs in so many different ways. I never would have expected a soufflé,” said student Derrick Howard.

For some of the students, this wasn’t just the first time they whipped up sweets in the culinary program; it was the first time they created a sweet – ever. “I love when guest chefs come because we learn something so new. Especially me. I’m new to cooking so it’s a wonderful opportunity,” said student Kelvin Johnston.

Chef Padua is one of the 15,000 annual volunteers who lend their time and talents to DCCK, and you don’t need to be an award winning chef like him to make a big difference. We have a critical need for emergency volunteers who can help on short notice when volunteer groups cancel. Join our list of emergency volunteers today.

The Many Contributions of Volunteer Groups

, June 12th, 2014
Boston Consulting Group Volunteers

Boston Consulting Group is just one of the recent corporate volunteer groups to serve at DC Central Kitchen.

DC Central Kitchen depends on volunteers to produce 10,000 meals every day – and a large percentage of our volunteers include corporate, school, church, and service groups that are looking to engage more directly with our work.

Pertula George-Redd is DC Central Kitchen’s Volunteer Program Manager, and she’s leading the way to make the volunteer experience memorable and rewarding for the over 15,000 volunteers that stop by every year. Pertula says the volunteer groups that stop by feel inspired and want to know how they can stay involved.

I typically hear that they had a great time working with staff and felt that they accomplished a lot in a short time.  They’ve also mentioned that they’re impressed with our operation—that we do so much and that we run a tight ship.  Volunteers send kudos to kitchen staff all the time.
- Pertula George-Redd, Volunteer Program Manager

Pertula frequently hears from the kitchen staff how much they enjoy and appreciate working with volunteers. They say there is “something special and unique about working in the Kitchen”. Staff get to work side by side with individuals and groups of all backgrounds and from all over the country and world – students, business people, government officials, diplomats, church groups, sports groups etc. The diversity of people and stories makes the experience uplifting, memorable, and inspirational.

I’ve seen volunteers and staff interact without bias or prejudice toward each other.  Volunteers tend to be most animated during and after the volunteer shift – they have deep conversations with staff, joke around with them and some have even sang songs to the staff as well as sent them touching thank you notes.
- Pertula

The interactions between our kitchen staff, most who are graduates of our Culinary Job Training Program, and volunteers is something we call the “calculated epiphany”. The goal is to challenge common stereotypes about poverty and homelessness so they can take back stories of hope and change to their communities and support our model of empowerment wherever they live.

In addition to getting our meals out the door, volunteers also help us glean produce from local farms and provide crucial assistance on special projects. Recently, volunteers have assisted us with database management, calling and thanking donors, writing stories, and providing support at fundraising events. Last year, volunteers saved DC Central Kitchen a total of $612,000 in payroll expenses.

Besides the fact that volunteers make most of our work possible, we’re touched and very proud that they enjoy the experience and are willing to share their inspirational stories. Do you have an outstanding story about volunteering at DCCK? Please share it with us! Use this form to share your experience.

And if you haven’t volunteered at DC Central Kitchen, come on down! We have opportunities for groups and individuals 7 days a week – and many shifts to accommodate your busy schedule. Visit our volunteer page today for details.

Volunteer Story Submissions

, June 12th, 2014

We’d love to hear from you about volunteering at DCCK! Please use this form to share your story and upload an optional photo from your experience.


Emergency Volunteer Waitlist

, May 23rd, 2014

Do you have a flexible schedule? Are you able and willing to show up on short notice? Sign up for our emergency waitlist—we will send you an email whenever a group cancels or we are short on volunteers. Please sign up here for email alerts and other updates from DCCK.

For information on the volunteer program, please visit the volunteer page.

Volunteer FAQ

, May 23rd, 2014

Volunteers peeling

How do I sign up to volunteer with DCCK?

Create a user account on our volunteer portal. Click on sign-in, register, and then refer to the online calendar for openings and to sign up. Or contact the Manager of Volunteer Programs for assistance (

What skills do I need in order to volunteer?

None. Just a great attitude and willingness to work hard.

What’s your minimum age requirement?

Volunteers must be 12 years or older.

What are your volunteer opportunities/locations?

Main Kitchen: 425 2nd St. NW
Morning (8:45a-12:00p): Everyday
Afternoon (12:45-4:00p): M, W, F
Evening (4:45-5:00p): Mon-Fri

Nutrition Lab: 2625 Evarts St. NE:
Afternoon (12:45-1:00p): Mon, Tues, Wed

Thursdays, June-November (9:00a-11:00a)

What will I be doing in the Kitchen?

Meal prep involves cutting vegetables, preparing salads, stocking up, packaging meals for schools and other kitchen related tasks

Will I receive a letter verifying that I volunteered?

Yes. We work with students and court ordered community service volunteers and we provide verification of volunteer hours on request.

I would like to bring a group: what’s the maximum number of people you can accommodate per shift?
I am a vegetarian. Would I have to work with meat?

No, there are special assignments for vegetarians and persons with allergies.

I have a back injury and cannot lift heavy objects—can I still volunteer?

Volunteers must be able to stand for 3 hours and will not be required to lift heavy loads. Persons with back injuries are not advised to sign up for gleaning.

Can I sign up for a date that is not posted online?

The online calendar is posted three months in advance. Volunteers can only sign up when the date is posted online.

What should I wear to volunteer in the Kitchen?

Safety is our number one concern. All volunteers must wear appropriate and professional attire suitable for an industrial production kitchen. Due to health regulations, volunteers who do not follow this dress code will not be allowed to work in the Kitchen.

When in doubt, cover up!!  Wear closed toed shoes, sleeves and long pants
* Shoes with high-grip soles are strongly recommended

What is your cancellation policy?

We rely heavily on the hard work of our volunteers and many supporters in order to effectively serve our community.  If you schedule and DO NOT show up for your shift, we CANNOT serve the community to the best of our ability. In the event that you cannot make your shift:

Do we have to bring our own lunch or do you provide lunch?

Lunch is provided at the end of the morning shift.

Do you have a waitlist?

There is a waitlist for some shifts. If you sign up for the waitlist you will receive a confirmation email if someone cancels.

Is there on-site parking available?

Limited metered street parking is available at the Main Kitchen (425 2nd St. NW). Parking is available in lots at Union Station, on E Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets NW. The Main Kitchen is also accessible by Metro train. The closest stop is Judiciary Square on the red line. Parking is available at The Nutrition Lab (2625 Evarts St. NE).

Do I have to sign a waiver?

Yes, each volunteer must sign an electronic waiver upon arrival. Volunteers under the age of 18 must provide a parent/guardian’s phone number on the waiver.

Back to the main volunteer page.