When the Kitchen first started, we relied on leftover, donated food. And while we still recycle two tons of surplus food each day, in 2008 we realized that we needed an innovative approach to cutting costs while making our meals healthier.
We looked to local farms, buying their fresh, beautiful produce at affordable rates and paying them pennies on the pound for blemished and misshapen fruits and vegetables that other outlets would not buy.
The farmers boosted their income, we stretched our donors’ dollars, and our meals reached new levels of quality and nutritional value. At DC Central Kitchen, we believe that investing in our local economy offers the best use of our donors’ dollars and greatest benefit to our broader community. This belief is underscored by recent economic studies confirming that small businesses generate two to three times the local economic activity of larger chain outlets.
It didn’t take long for this small shift toward local agriculture to make a big difference. In 2010, we won the Green Business Award for Innovation from the Washington Business Journal. Today, we’re investing more than $150,000 in local farmers each year.
In fact, we started using so much local produce that we had to open a second kitchen facility named the Nutrition Lab just to process and store it all! The Lab allowed us to create 12 jobs for at-risk graduates of Culinary Job Training program in its first year of operations. Going forward, we are committed to helping small and disadvantaged farmers in our area grow their businesses while increasing the amount of fresh, local fruits and vegetables available to low-income residents of Washington, DC.
“New Space Helps DC Central Kitchen Step Up its Local Food Hub Operations,” Washington Post, July 15, 2011.