I’m really enjoying my time in Washington, DC. Apart from restaurants that serve delicious food without packaging, I also had an opportunity to visit an organization called DC Central Kitchen. I first heard about them at a Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit at the University of Guelph this past February.
Although I missed the presentation about it, what I heard about the organization got me really stoked. DC Central Kitchen is doing revolutionary things – and they’ve been at since 1989. That’s almost thirty years.
Under the motto “Combating Hunger, Creating Opportunity” DC Central Kitchen does a few amazing things. They reduce food waste AND mobilize unemployed adults to find work.
When I say they reduce food waste I really mean it. Washington, DC is a large city. There are countless grocery stores, restaurants and other stores that sell food. That also means there is a lot of food that is wasted.
DC Central Kitchens takes that food and then turns it into some 5000 meals a day. That’s right – 5000 meals! The food is distributed to schools in disadvantaged areas, as well as other community service groups. The organization also offers catering in DC. They process some 3000 pounds of produce/food per day. That’s food that would otherwise be chucked. Instead, it’s being used to feed those in need.
When I walked into the kitchen, I was met by the smiling Angelo – a graduate of DC Kitchens culinary jobs training program – stirring a gigantic pot of cream sauce for raviolis. When we walked further on, two kitchen volunteers were opening up packages of expired raviolis, putting them into a giant container and then throwing the packages in the garbage. There was about to be one enormous serving of raviolis with cream sauce coming up! Boxes of totally fine broccoli also filled a counter, ready to be washed, cut and made into a meal somehow.
I was impressed. The other part of DC Central Kitchen’s inspiring work is their culinary jobs program. They believe that hunger doesn’t stop at providing enough to eat, jobs also have to be created. Through the culinary jobs program, participants spend 14 weeks learning how to work in a kitchen. To me it sounds like a culinary apprenticeship. They also have life skills training – an opportunity for them to reflect about where they’ve come from and where they would like to go.
So far program has affected the lives of 1400 women and men and, last year, an astonishing 93% of participants found work afterwards. Many have also become employed at DC Central Kitchen, where 160 work and 50 people volunteer per day. A total of 14000 people volunteer through the organization each year.
DC Central kitchens was founded by Robert Egger who has now moved to Los Angeles to start another similar social enterprise called LA Kitchen.
For more information about DC Kitchen, check out their site and this video here:
A special thank you to Erica Teti-Zilinskas for assisting with this story.