Who We Are:
DC Central Kitchen goes beyond simply feeding people by using food as a tool that strengthens bodies, empowers minds, and builds communities. We recover nutritious food that would otherwise go to waste, use it to prepare 5,000 meals each day for hungry DC residents, and, most importantly, train jobless, at-risk women and men in the culinary arts so they can get good jobs and no longer rely on the meals we provide.
To make our operation more financially sustainable, DC Central Kitchen earns the majority of our income through social enterprises that employ our own culinary graduates. We use fresh, local farm products to fuel four integrated social enterprise initiatives that empower low-income children and families in Washington, DC to lead healthier, more prosperous lives. Together, these initiatives make up our Healthy Futures program. Through Healthy Futures, we serve another 5,000 healthy, scratch-cooked school meals to thousands of low-income DC schoolchildren each day, empower corner stores in food deserts to sell nutritious foods through affordable deliveries of healthy products and technical assistance, deliver quality meals and snacks to afterschool programs, and teach healthy eating with the help of a mobile urban garden in the bed of a pickup truck called the Truck Farm.
By meeting children’s needs on their way to school, at school, after school, and in their homes, Healthy Futures offers a holistic, wraparound solution to childhood hunger. And Healthy Futures’ sustainability is ensured by its commitment to job creation, local investment, and sound environmental practices. This process of putting people back to work and maximizing otherwise wasted resources is designed to shorten this city’s line of hungry people by the very way that we feed it.
What We Do:
With our landmark Culinary Job Training (CJT) program we empower formerly homeless, addicted, unemployed, and incarcerated men and women with comprehensive job readiness training. Over the span of 14 weeks, these trainees receive culinary education, earn valuable professional credentials, and gain information technology (IT) skills necessary to compete in a modern, competitive job market. And unlike many other job training programs, we supplement our vocational training with critical life-skills coaching. Our proven model equips students with the skills needed to maintain their jobs, manage their money, rejoin their families, and become productive, self-sufficient citizens.
DC Central Kitchen doubled the number of Culinary Job Training classes in the first 6 months of 2014 to graduate 4 classes with a 97% job placement rate.
As a key component of their training, our students put their newly acquired knife skills into practice with the Food Recycling and Meal Distribution program. Along with our full-time kitchen staff and 15,000 annual volunteers, CJT students help prepare the 5,000 meals we distribute to 88 area homeless shelters, halfway houses, recovery centers, and other nonprofit agencies each day. Through partnerships with local farms, we incorporate fresh, local produce into our balanced meals, providing critical nutrition to those who need it most.
Thanks to our connections with more than 2 dozen area youth programs, a partnership with Washington Jesuit Academy, and our Truck Farm – a mobile urban garden planted in the bed of a pickup truck – we offer hands-on learning activities for children and parents, teaching them about making healthy choices, preparing nutritious meals, and shopping for quality food on tight budgets. By involving children and parents, we empower entire households to eat healthier.
DC Central Kitchen recovered 446,133 pounds of fresh produce to make more than 867,422 meals for nonprofits serving at-risk men, women, and children in the first 6 months of 2014.
DC Central Kitchen earns more than half of its annual revenue through social enterprise.
Through our Healthy School Food contracts, DC Central Kitchen has proven that healthy, scratch-cooked meals can be enjoyable for children, affordable for school districts, and valuable for teachers who need children to be nourished and focused. Working closely with dozens of small, local farmers to ensure that more than 30% of all the food items we purchase are grown nearby, we’ve prepared nearly 5,000 healthy, scratch-cooked breakfasts, lunches, and suppers each day for low-income children at 10 public and private schools in Washington, DC. Our schools are located primarily in Wards 7 and 8, home to DC’s highest rates of poverty, unemployment, and obesity. In addition to providing meals, we are providing cooking demonstrations, taste tests, and nutrition education lessons for the students and staff at the schools.
Healthy Corners is DC Central Kitchen’s partnership with corner stores to deliver fresh produce and healthy snacks to low income areas without convenient and affordable access to grocery stores. DCCK sells the produce to the corner stores at wholesale prices and in smaller quantities than they could acquire through a conventional distributor. The stores sell the produce at below-market prices, making it an affordable option for the consumer.
From January-June 2014, DC Central Kitchen earned more than $20,500 in revenue from selling healthy snacks and produce at corner stores in low-income neighborhoods, a 12% increase over the first 6 months of 2013.
Since our founding in 1989, DC Central Kitchen has prepared 27 million meals for our low-income and at-risk neighbors. That’s a lot of meals – but don’t mistake us for a soup kitchen.
For the past 25 years, DC Central Kitchen has used food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities in the District of Columbia. The nation’s first and leading community kitchen, DCCK turns local produce and donated food into 5,000 daily meals for struggling individuals and families. But we know that food alone will never end hunger, and that’s why our programs are not just about feeding people. DC Central Kitchen seeks to address the root causes of hunger and poverty by expanding access to high-quality job training for unemployed, at-risk men and women in the District, and empowering our low-income neighbors to lead healthier lives by increasing their access to affordable, healthy food through programs that create jobs for our culinary graduates.