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 Volunteering

, April 3rd, 2014

Volunteers of The Month: Cardinal Health

cardinal health 2
This week, employees from Cardinal Health, a medical supply company based in Dublin, Ohio made a generous donation of $10,000 to DC Central Kitchen while volunteering on the evening co-op shift. Conni Siegmund arranged for her group to volunteer while visiting DC to plan for an upcoming pharmaceutical trade show at National Harbor.

Conni explained that the group usually plans a fun team outing on trips like these, but that she was inspired to incorporate volunteer service into their evening after reading a fictional account of DC’s homeless population in John Grisham’s The Street Lawyer, which also mentions DC Central Kitchen. The idea was so popular with the other members of the planning committee that they will continue to seek out volunteer opportunities each year as they visit different cities to prepare for their events.

We thank Cardinal Health for their time and support. Visit dccentralkitchen.volunteerhub.com for the latest volunteer opportunities.

, March 5th, 2014

Volunteer of the Month: St. Coletta of Greater Washington

Volunteers from St. Colettas with James from DCCK's meal production crew.

Volunteers from St. Coletta with James from DCCK’s meal production crew.

Tori Jordan, Monesha Cary and Tyler Washington have become familiar faces at DC Central Kitchen over the past few years. The students from St. Coletta of Greater Washington volunteer on a regular basis as part of their vocational training curriculum. Students help select their volunteer sites based on their interests and these three students have made countless trips to DCCK.

By coming to DC Central Kitchen we’re not just helping ourselves, we get to leave knowing that we’re helping other people.  No other organization does the work that DC Central Kitchen does and by volunteering, we get to be a part of that.
Tyler Washington, St. Coletta Student

The students take their volunteer work very seriously, helping us produce the 5,000 meals we send out daily to local nonprofits. Tyler says that it’s exciting to work with DC Central Kitchen’s staff because they’re helpful, polite and often pretty funny, making sure that the volunteers are enjoying themselves.

Tori, who was the first of the students to come to DC Central Kitchen, will also be the first to graduate from St. Coletta later this year. In addition to working in our kitchen, she does cafeteria duty at St. Coletta, greeting customers, busing trays, cleaning tables and sweeping up after meals. She’s grateful to have had the opportunity to expand upon her food service skills and hopes to use those skills to find a job as a cook upon graduating.

These students are examples of how we’re not only changing the lives of the people we serve, but also the lives of the volunteers who feel empowered by their experiences.

Volunteering at DC Central Kitchen has been an awesome opportunity for our students. I really appreciate the many ways in which DC Central Kitchen is helping the community and these students who need an opportunity to come in and learn how to volunteer and work.
Natalie Gibson, St. Coletta’s Educational Coordinator

The mission of St. Coletta of Greater Washington is to serve children and adults with intellectual disabilities and to support their families. You can learn more about their important work here. A special thanks to Tori, Monesha, and Tyler for their outstanding service and dedication to our work.

Click here to sign-up for our latest volunteer opportunities.

, October 8th, 2013

Volunteer Profile: Chef Amy Brandwein

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Last week may have been Amy Brandwein’s first visit to the Nutrition Lab, but she’s no stranger to DC Central Kitchen. Amy volunteered with a group of eleven other women from the DC chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality.

At the Nutrtion Lab, the Dames peeled carrots, sliced freshly baked bread and helped prepare a corn and black bean salad. The Dames of the local chapter have worked closely with DC Central Kitchen over the years, and are regular guest chefs at Heritage Day, where Culinary Job Training students learn how to make cultural dishes from experienced local chefs. In addition to sharing nuggets of career and life advice at Heritage Day, some of the Dames have also mentored women in the program.

Amy is one of the Dames who have taken the time to work with our culinary students. She came down to the Kitchen to support our most recent group of graduates, Class 93, on Heritage Day in July, teaching them how to make gnocchi with turnip greens and bacon.

Last year, Amy also worked with Class 88′s Deborah Lyles, providing one-on-one mentoring and job search assistance. Amy said that it was very rewarding to help someone get started on the right path within the culinary industry. Deborah was in the middle of the Culinary Job Training program and trying to put her life back together for herself and her two children.

Amy had much sympathy for Deborah because she had recently been through changes in her life with her restaurant closing. Deborah now produces healthy school meals for DC Central Kitchen in the cafeteria of Drew Elementary School. Amy said that she has some exciting projects in the works, but isn’t ready to share the details quite yet.

When speaking about her experience mentoring, Amy says that it has always been challenging for women to make their way in the male dominated culinary field. While mentoring, she observed just how many challenges Deborah had in front of her as she juggled her commitment to the Culinary Job Training Program and her career with the needs of her children. We have seen the women in our classes benefit from conversations with other students in the informal weekly women’s support group as well as the encouragement of successful women within the field

, April 25th, 2013

New Afternoon Volunteer Shift Added

Volunteers

Here’s another chance to help feed the SOUL of the city!

We’re proud to announce expanded volunteer opportunities in the afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. These new shifts will allow volunteers to play a greater role in meal production at our 425 2nd Street kitchen, assisting staff in producing 5,000 meals each day for over 100 different partner agencies.

The new 1 to 4 PM shift starts on May 1st. Head over to our volunteer registration site to sign up for the new shifts through the end of the year.

, February 22nd, 2013

Shattering Stereotypes

shatteringstereotypesThis post, republished from The Huffington Post, kicks off our Job Raising Campaign. You can join us in shortening the line and empowering men and women to change their lives. Visit our Crowdrise page and make a contribution today. Your contribution helps us reach our goal of winning $150,000 from the Skoll Foundation. Tell your friends and spread the word.

Each day at DC Central Kitchen, we prepare thousands of meals for hungry and homeless members of our community. This tremendous effort requires the support of dozens of daily volunteers and the hard work of jobless, at-risk men and women enrolling in our Culinary Job Training program.

When volunteers are chopping away in our bustling kitchen, they’re working side-by-side with our current culinary students and paid staffers who are graduates of our program — many of whom came to us with long histories of incarceration, drug addiction, and homelessness.

Stereotypes about “the hungry” and “the needy” are rarely questioned, even by people who want to help them. Perceptions of men and women who have been incarcerated or addicted to drugs are even less informed. These stereotypes are most dangerous when we’re working to find jobs for our culinary trainees. While our students are focused on their futures, their pasts can be a major barrier.

Destroying these old and dangerous stereotypes is crucial. What about the idea that a woman can still be homeless while working a full-time job that pays substandard wages? What about the men who have committed crimes that have transformed themselves to serve the community? We’re out to challenge the idea that people can’t help themselves out of the cycle of dependency. We’re out to prove that people can liberate themselves from the soup line and find well-paying work that makes a difference. We’re out to demonstrate that with the right opportunities and a lot of hard work, powerful transformations can take place.

Despite these challenges, we’ve revitalized a lot of stale thinking. We’re shattering those stereotypes every day by bringing the community to our kitchen and showing them our unique model of empowerment. We call this experience the “Calculated Epiphany,” where folks come to the Kitchen with certain expectations, and leave with a totally different point of view about the people we serve.

We’re thinking long-term about challenging those stereotypes. The 5,000 meals we produce each day for local nonprofits would not be possible without the 12,000 volunteers that come through the Kitchen each year. Our volunteers mean much more to us than free labor. We want our volunteers to come away feeling inspired by what they see.

This experience is unlike anything you’ll get at a soup kitchen, where there is a barrier between the volunteers and those being served. We purposefully break down those physical and personal barriers to challenge stereotypes. Our volunteers come to us from all over the world and work alongside our culinary students and graduate staffers. Sometimes, our students share their stories. Other times, they just talk about sports. Whatever the subject, the act of interacting promotes mutual understanding, affecting the hearts and minds of all involved.

Ultimately, our volunteers see that, if given the right opportunity, people can make extraordinary changes in their lives. We’re taking men and women who were previously dependent on the system and giving them the tools to make their lives better.

This is why we’ve built a solid program of engaging the local hospitality industry. Every class, we bring chefs from D.C.’s best culinary establishments to the Kitchen to perform cooking demonstrations, participate in events, and serve as mentors to our students. We’re building productive relationships with local businesses that recognize the quality of our program and how hard our students have had to work to get through it. We’re showing chefs and business leaders that people can turn their lives around. Ultimately, this helps our graduates break through barriers and find stable employment.

As a community organization, we’re committed to bringing people to us to learn about our work, to shatter the stereotypes that stand in our way. Politicians talk about fighting ‘wars’ on poverty, hunger, and drug addiction. What makes us different? We’re fighting to win. We’re working to change perceptions about what is possible and we’re showing that our model of empowerment works.


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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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