America’s unemployment rate has been too high for too long, with few signs of tangible improvement. DC was not spared from this rising tide of hardship. East of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8, unemployment exceeds 25%. Without access to good jobs or quality workforce development programs, many residents rely on support from social service agencies and taxpayer-funded government programs.
Like so many other nonprofits with ‘kitchen’ in their name, we could just focus on feeding folks who are out of work. But we know hunger is a symptom of poverty and unemployment. That’s why we train between 80 and 90 unemployed, at-risk men and women for jobs in the hospitality industry through our Culinary Job Training Program. We prepare them for the rigors of professional kitchen work while challenging them to identify and overcome the personal barriers to their success and self-sufficiency. For many years, we relied mainly on our many culinary partners to employ our graduates.
But when the recession paralyzed private and public sector hiring, we responded by launching new social enterprises and creating jobs ourselves. Of our 130 employees, fully half are graduates of our program, employed at living wages with quality benefits.
Since the recession of 2008, men and women completing our program boast a 90% job placement rate, within and beyond our organization. We thus go beyond resume help and career counseling to help individuals develop marketable skills, find good jobs, maintain employment, and replace the cycle of poverty with productive citizenship.
“DC Central Kitchen Helps Homeless with Food and Work Skills.” The Hill, April 24, 2012