By Justyn Hintze and Craig Newmark
DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) really targets the cycle of hunger and poverty in an effort to throw a wrench into the vicious spiral. Each of their ventures creates opportunities for meaningful careers, access to healthy food, and tests innovative solutions to systemic failures.
But when we break it down, what does that really mean?
DC Central Kitchen prepares adults with high barriers to employment for culinary careers in sustainable, living wage jobs. The point is to target the root cause of hunger by offering pathways out of poverty.
They're committed to extending DCCK's impact throughout the food system by:
- Earning at least 50% of their budget through social enterprise,
- Purchasing directly from local farms,
- Recovering otherwise wasted food, and
- Engaging the next generation of student leaders.
Every day, DCCK transforms 3,000 pounds of donated and recovered food into 5,000 healthy meals. This means that thousands of pounds of wasted food are reinvented into nutritious meals for the community. The food is recovered from businesses, cafeterias, restaurants, grocery stores, catering companies, wholesalers, farms, farmers’ markets, etc. You can actually contact their food recovery team if you're in the DC area and want to schedule a food donation delivery or pick-up.
Providing Bodegas With Produce Across Food Deserts
Healthy Corners is a pioneering venture that is sustainably expanding healthy food access in DC’s food deserts. DCCK delivers fresh produce and healthy snacks to corner stores in DC’s low-income communities, offering produce to corner stores at wholesale prices and in smaller quantities than a conventional distributor. The stores then sell the produce at below-market prices, making it an affordable option for the consumer.
DCCK also provide stores with marketing support and technical assistance while offering nutrition education sessions and cooking demonstrations that get customers excited about changing their shopping habits.
Bringing Farm to Table to Public Schools
DC Central Kitchen is the food service provider for 15 schools in Washington, DC – 12 DC Public Schools located primarily in Ward 7, and 3 private and charter schools serving low-income children. They source ingredients from more than 30 local family farms and every meal is scratch-cooked according to recipes designed by DCCK's expert team of chefs and dieticians. DCCK fights hunger differently by providing the high-quality nutrition kids relying on school meals need to learn and grow while sustaining meaningful, living-wage careers for at-risk adults who have completed the Culinary Job Training program. It all comes full circle.
Replacing Homelessness, Addiction, and Incarceration in DC
The goal of DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program is to prepare adults facing high barriers to employment for careers in the food service industry. They care about their students’ potential much more than their pasts and specialize in equipping adults with histories of incarceration, addiction, homelessness, and trauma with the hands-on training and support they need to begin a culinary career.
DCCK's 14-week, intensive training program provides culinary arts education, career readiness training, and real-world internships – a combination that helps 90% of their graduates find jobs after graduation. All admitted students receive full scholarships to attend the program, so there is no cost to the students at any point in their training or in the 2 years of post-graduation support they provide.
Combating Waste and Hunger Nationwide
One of their initiatives, the Campus Kitchens Project brings DC Central Kitchen’s community meals model to scale by empowering students to fight food waste and hunger on high school and college campuses across the US. Student volunteers with The Campus Kitchens Project transform unused food from dining halls, grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers’ markets into meals that are delivered to local agencies serving those in need. The Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund supported this effort through their Raise the Dough Campaign earlier this year.
Folks, please support 'em if you're able. They're the real deal, and doing really good work. We really appreciate that they're thinking through every angle…it's sort of the approach that created craigslist: it's the no-making-a-killing approach, which evolved into a business model that you might call “doing well by doing good.” The good was a free, accessible marketplace that helped people buy a table, put food on that table, and find a roof to put the table under.