We all know that Washington D.C. is known for being home to the White House, the President, and many monuments, memorials, and museums. (Oh, my!) But did you know that, in 2013, D.C. was also home to approximately 650 thousand people; 18.6% of them living below the poverty level (with 28.7% of the under 18 population living below poverty level), 13.9% of all families having utilized the SNAP program in the past 12 months, and 7.4% of the work force unemployed. Each of these statistics being higher than the national averages (3).
Being an Iowan, these were not statistics I was accustom to hearing about D.C. It wasn’t until a trip to D.C. last summer that I was introduced to such startling facts about our Nation’s capital. With all the doom and gloom that comes with such statistics, I was also provided with an experience to see first-hand an organization who seemed to be providing a light at the end of the tunnel for these dreary statistics.
That organization was D.C. Central Kitchen. D.C. Central Kitchen was started in 1989 on the foundation of “using food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.” This is no ordinary kitchen though. They are able to provide 5,000 meals per day to 80 locations, such as homeless shelters and nonprofit organizations, at little or no cost to help nourish those in need (1). So you may be asking yourself, “What makes D.C. Central Kitchen so special?” Well, that is exactly the point!
D.C. Central Kitchen is so much more than a food shelter. This “kitchen” is a multifaceted organization trying to combat a number of issues such as food waste, poverty, sustainability, etc. They have established numerous programs that help to tackle such issues. One of the main programs is a Culinary Job Training program to help teach and provide culinary skills to those who are homeless or unemployed. This program creates food from their Food Recycling program, a program that in one year recovered 791,325 pounds of food and turned it into healthy, nutritious meals. Meals created by the Culinary Job Training program are distributed to locations including schools, feeding 6,300 meals to low-income children through the School Food program. They are also able to prepare quick snacks which can be found at corner stores in D.C.’s food deserts, the main goal of the Healthy Corners program (1).
At the D.C. Central Kitchen, they are doing so much more than just putting healthy, nutritious meals on an individual’s plate. They are taking action towards some of today’s biggest issues facing society by working to educate, empower, and support the most sensitive populations. Not only that, but their model has created positive impacts on the D.C. region like (1):
- $1 spent on the Culinary Job Training program, produces a “re-investment” of $3.50 through saved taxpayer dollars (on jail, shelters, welfare, etc.) and new tax revenue (by increasing employment)
- Approximately $950,000 prevented in food waste through the Food Recycling program
- Placed 90% of Culinary Job Training program graduates in just 3 months
- Investing $155,000 in more than 20 local farms or cooperatives
After learning all of these new facts about D.C., I was invigorated by such work. But the D.C. Central Kitchen’s work hasn’t stopped yet! After seeing such impressive results and all of the positive impacts from their programs, D.C. Central Kitchen has made it possible for everyone to be involved in their mission to change the statistics. Through the Campus Kitchens Project, we are all being challenged to help start our very own D.C. Central Kitchens in our backyards (2). The model is multifaceted, yet customizable giving you have the flexibility to work within your means. If you too are feeling excited and motivated by such work, I encourage you to make a difference in your community!
- "DC Central Kitchen." DC Central Kitchen. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
- "Student-Powered Hunger Relief - Campus Kitchens." The Campus Kitchens Project Student-Powered Hunger Relief Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
- "United States Census Bureau." District of Columbia QuickLinks from the US Census Bureau. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.