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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Employment Preparation & Procurement, Food, Food Programs, Homeless & Housing, Homeless Centers, Human Services, Job Training

Mission: DC Central Kitchen turns leftover food into millions of meals for thousands of at-risk individuals while offering nationally recognized culinary job training to adults overcoming homelessness, addiction, and incarceration. We use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities. 

Results: Since opening our doors twenty-one years ago, we have: • Served over 21 million meals—now in the amount of 4,500 each day—to our region’s hungry and homeless men, women, and children through our Food Recycling and Meal Distribution program. • Graduated nearly 800 once-homeless and hungry men and women from our Culinary Job Training program. Since the economic crisis of 2008, our graduates have attained a 94% job placement rate and seen their starting average hourly salary increase over our earlier trainees. • Engaged a daily average of 250 chronically homeless men and women through conversation and breakfast through our First Helping program, building relationships and connecting them with vital services. • Recruited hundreds of thousands of volunteers for the fight against hunger. Last year, 14,000 individuals donated their time and talents to our organization. • Replicated our model on the campuses of 26 colleges and high schools across America through our student-powered hunger relief program, The Campus Kitchens Project. Since 2001, CKP has recovered more than 1,000,000 pounds of food and served over 1,000,000 meals.

Target demographics: Our Meal Distribution program provides quality nutrition to 4,500 children, families, adults, and seniors each day. Recipients of our meals are clients of our 100 partner social service agencies, and thus represent a wide-cross section of our community, but all represent low-income and at-risk populations. Our Culinary Job Training students are unemployed adults working to overcome histories of substance abuse, incarceration, and homelessness. Nearly all are DC residents and approximately 80% of each class identify themselves as African-American. Our Healthy Returns program provides healthy meals and snacks, along with nutrition education, to low-income children in Washington, DC. Last year, 1,300 children benefited from Healthy Returns’ programming. Our First Helping street-level outreach program serves chronically homeless men and women in DC—specifically in downtown’s Golden Triangle District and Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River. Notably, we are the only outreach service working east of the river.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 10,000

Geographic areas served: Washington, DC

Programs: Our programs provide a comprehensive continuum of care to the people we serve. First, we provide breakfast, outreach, and counseling services to chronically homeless people living on the streets. Next we recycle 3,000 pounds of food each day, converting it into 4,500 meals we distribute to 100 shelters, transitional homes, and rehabilitation clinics throughout the DC area. These partner agencies then refer clients to our Culinary Job Training program, where they receive the tools to start new careers. We complete the empowerment process by employing our graduates in our full-service catering company or by placing them in full-time jobs at restaurants and hotels throughout the region. Today, we are expanding our operations, partnering with local farmers to procure fresh produce and begin new revenue-generating social enterprises.

Community Stories

59 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a youth, I was shown to serve others to humble myself and be myself. I was giving a tour with the rest of my group of the charity and I had so many thoughts going through my head but the main thing was I felt so much joy being able to give others time, playing with the children, serving food to others and even doing some cleaning up. It changed me.It made me want to change other lifes.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 1

A group of 10 of us volunteered at DCCK in 2012. The staff was very rude and uninviting. We were yelled at a treated like they didn't want us there. The food we chopped was dirty. They do not wash or clean any of the vegetables before cooking! I couldn't believe that we were feeding people dirty vegetables. I will never volunteer at DCCK again.

Jan T

Donor

Rating: 5

October 2006 my husband and I married. We employed "Fresh Start Catering," a part of the DCCK mission, to cater our wedding reception. It was our goal to use our event as a community service. All guests were asked to donate to a favorite charity in our honor in lieu of gifts, but I digress.

Fresh Start Catering teaches DCCK clients the skills necessary to succeed in the food business. The student staff who took care of our wedding reception were friendly, on time and professional. The food prepared by Fresh Start was attractive and delicious. From contracting their services to final clean up they were top notch and would compare favorably to any catering company. Our guests made rave reviews and asked us for referral information. We were so impressed that we've been supporting DCCK annually ever since.

Client Served

Rating: 1

You don't desired any stars and should be very ashamed of yourself for the food that you prepare to Open Doors shelter. The rotten fruit with mold and it. Salad with rotten tomatoes. Meals with uncook rice and potatoes. The reporter that is doing a story about the food that should be thrown away instead of given to us. You are not going to get away with doing this because I am sure this will affect you donations.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My high schoolers had to do service hours for school, and when I learned about DC Central Kitchen, I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to not only fulfill a service requirement, but also realize WHY doing service hours is important. During our entire visit to DC Central, my children and I spoke about the importance of donating our time and resources to those less fortunate than us. It was also a good lead in to speak about the effects of drugs, not getting a good education, and growing up disadvantaged.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was impressed with the kitchen's cleanliness and the efficiency of the production prep work of food in the vegetable area. Steve the chef was very well organized and professional in instructing the volunteers to their tasks. I enjoyed giving back to society. I was humbled by the experience and plan to go back!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have volunteered at DC Central Kitchen in 2010 January and 2009 january with a group of about 30 volunteers each time.


I will ove to go back to DC central Kitchen due to the professional attitude and mangement of the DC Central Kitchen Staff.

They teach our volunteers the value of food, Cleanliness and above all human dignity.
Looking forward to Volunteer this year also

Volunteer

Rating: 5

DCCK is extremely well run. (I volunteer at DCCK pretty regularly during the evening shift.) Curtis Cunningham is an excellent addition to the supervisor team. Even if I arrive early, stations are set and things are ready to go. We get a lot done, too! DCCK staff are enthusiastic; they love what they do and it shows. And they are nice! I always feel my contribution is appreciated.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

DCCK is a rarity among food charities: a vertical operation that tackles the food insecurity problem at multiple levels, and manages to get a meaningful degree of reuse out of its donated resources. Its food doesn't just go straight to the needy; it first drives a culinary training program for putting people back on the path to self-sufficiency with skills in hand. Every 16 weeks, another class of 25 students begins their journey. Those same people staff a fully-qualified and competitive catering program that increases both public awareness and funding for the program.

I'm hard-pressed to think of another charity that is structured with such elegant efficiency. And it works.

From a volunteer standpoint, they operate several well-organized and well-equipped prep shifts per week, conveniently scheduled, in a bustling and social setting. It's among the most fun I've had as a volunteer, and the high demand for the limited number of openings suggests that others would agree.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

They are most known for the work they do preparing nearly 5000 meals for the homeless every day.

But their most important mission is a job training program through their kitchen. They have graduated more than 80 classes (of mostly ex-cons), given them job skills, life skills, help interviewing, and job placement in local restaurants and hotel kitchens.