Combating Hunger, Creating Opportunity

DC Central Kitchen is America's leader in reducing hunger with recycled food, training unemployed adults for culinary careers, serving healthy school meals, and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise.
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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Chef Jerald: Help DC Central Kitchen produce meals faster, safer, and more efficiently

, March 29th, 2012

My name is Jerald Thomas, and I’m a veteran that graduated from DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program 17 years ago – and I’ve been working at DCCK ever since!

The more years I spend at DCCK, the better I’ve become at dishing out thousands of meals to those in need. But unfortunately the same can’t be said for DCCK’s ovens. These ovens cook unevenly and slowly – and sometimes not at all!

By purchasing a combi oven, we’d be able to bake, roast, smoke and braise in larger batches and in half the time. We could do our jobs faster, safer, and more efficiently – enabling us to redirect our energy to volunteers, technique, and nutrition.

Please help us raise $40,000 to purchase a combi oven for DC Central Kitchen. Your contribution will keep us cookin’ for years to come.

We need a newer combi oven -- these ovens are so old!

May 20 Sound Bites Concert Fights Hunger

, March 26th, 2012

DC Central Kitchen and the 9:30 Club will host the 3rd Annual Sound Bites charity concert featuring food you crave and music you love with proceeds benefiting DCCK, a national leader for combating hunger and creating opportunities for individuals in need.  The event will be in and around the 9:30 Club, 815 V Street, NW.

Music at this year’s event is curated by Eric Hilton of the Thievery Corporation, including Bone, Fur FeathersThe Archives, and Nappy Riddem, with a DJ Set by Eric Hilton. There will also be a cocktail competition involving three of DC’s hottest mixologists from Oyamel, The Passenger, Fujimar, and The Gibson. And of course, food from thearea’s favorite food trucks including Pepe and Borinquen, as well other beloved restaurants.

Tickets are $40 and go on sale Thursday, March 22.  Be sure to join DCCK and the 9:30 Club May 20th for music and food that will change lives.

Staff Profiles: William Ferrell, Culinary Job Training Class 81 Graduate

, March 20th, 2012

William Ferrell, Culinary Job Training Class 81 Graduate and Production Cook at DC Central Kitchen talks about how the program changed his life.

Q: How did you find out about DC Central Kitchen?
Will: I came toDC Central Kitchen after spending 17 years in prison. After prison and spending some time in a half-way house, my whole plan was to make myself more marketable.

I had done telemarketing before doing time and my approach was to learn as much as I possibly can about what I would be doing. I was good at my last job. I thought I would be fine when I got out of prison, but the guy who interviewed me for a telemarketing job said I was basically overqualified.

They invited me back to a second interview and they told me they were concerned about the amount of time I had been incarcerated and how I’d adjust.

At least he was honest and I can respect that, but that was when the reality set in. I had no idea that this was my calling. DC Central Kitchen gave me a second chance because people are not judging you here.

Q: What did you think about the Culinary Job Training Program?
Will: I thought the curriculum was really challenging. The Life Skills curriculum in particular really got me to open up. We all learned a lot about each other and I am always trying to learn more.

Q: What have you gotten out of working at D.C. Central Kitchen?
Will: I have a second chance now. I had a chance to work other places after graduation from the program but I decided to stay here because giving back is really what I want to do. When I see a homeless person on the street, I can now say that I am helping him because of the work I do here.

Q: What do you like about working at DC Central Kitchen?
Will: I like working with the volunteers. I think most kids don’t have a lot of direction and I can help make an impact on their lives when I interact with them here.  Volunteers are what make this place run, along with donations and contributions.

Q: What have you learned from other graduates?
Will: I learned that a lot of the graduates had the same life experiences that I had, having just gotten out of prison. We all lean on each other and support each other.

Q: What is the best advice you could give someone who is considering the Culinary Job Training Program?
Will: I would say the first thing you have to do in order to change is change how you think about things. You have to be honest with yourself. It’s a thought process – How you respond to things and how you think about things. If you change the way you think about things, you can change your life.

Changing school nutrition one carrot at a time: Interview with Chef Allison Sosna

, March 15th, 2012

Chef Allison Sosna

Chef Allison Sosna is DC Central Kitchen’s executive chef based at Walker Jones Education Campus. We took the time to interview her about her passion: how healthy school food can build stronger communities.

How do you think DCCK is changing the role of nutrition in schools?
DCCK is shifting the culture of food in communities and in schools. We are providing not only good meals and exposure to many ages but we are focusing on the WHY of food. Why it is important to your body? Why it is important to live longer? How do fruits and vegetables effect how you feel?  When you directly relate food to health, to not only saving money but living longer, it strikes a chord. That chord is being struck by children finding this out for themselves while we are providing the tools. DCCK is at the forefront of creating a better food system because we focus on the micro and the macro effects of how one little carrot can make you and our community better, stronger.

How do you think teachers can play a role in encouraging nutrition?
Teachers, just as parents, directly influence how a child perceives food. If a child is unsure of something they usually mimic the actions and views of someone older. When faculty brings in soda, they want soda. When parents say they hate beans, their kid hates beans. That’s why it’s crucial to encourage trying items. Teachers don’t have to love eating healthy but we need them to help us promote trying new things. If every teacher took five minutes to talk to their class everyday about trying something new, we would be able to create healthier communities a whole lot faster.

What are the challenges of preparing scratch-cooked meals in a traditional school cafeteria?
As with anything seasonal and made from scratch it involves a whole lot of innovation and creativity. Apples might not have gotten enough rain this season to grow so they are smaller, kids see that. Vendors may come late to drop off fresh fruits and delay food service, this influences the school menu. The beauty of scratch cooking is that it allows creativity and a connection to the food and where it comes from. You see the farmers you are helping, you see the cooks smelling and tasting, and you see a connection to the faculty and cooks when you see them smile while they eat. There is a pride that you don’t find in traditional school cafeterias.

What do students think of the meals. Do you ever get any compliments?
Like adults, kids will always complain about something. It’s about keeping those complaints minimal and addressing changes you can make and bargaining with the students. In the schools I have worked with, I have always taken it upon myself to meet the student council, hold demos, host meet the parent nights, talk to students about what they eat and why they are eating it and what they think. Kids will always want French fries, burgers, and pizza. But if you tell them what you are trying to do with your budget and tell them what it’s like to be a chef in a school, a light bulb goes on that makes them realize that we don’t just come up with anything for the menu. We have a lot of factors that go into menu planning. That being said, after six months the kids really begin to eat more of the healthy items, they are more open minded, and they are eating more fruits and vegetables. It just takes time and that’s what people have a hard time understanding.

Do students ever switch from bringing their lunch to eating at school after seeing the healthy meals?
Yes, we have actually had a few parents tell me this and it’s fun to hear. We want all kids to want to eat at school and parents more time to relax. I have heard more and more how great the fruit and vegetable program is for kids.

Is there anything we’re finding that kids won’t eat?
Beans, unless they are BBQ… We hard time getting kids to eat them which is something I talk about a lot especially with student athletes because they are so good for you and cheap.

Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Tour Supports DC Central Kitchen

, March 12th, 2012

Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball Tour


We’re totally stoked that The Boss has again chosen to support DC Central Kitchen for his April 1, 2012 concert at the Verizon Center. We’re auctioning off 4 Tickets with ESL passes, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting DC Central Kitchen. Be sure to check out our eBay auction to snag tickets to this sold out show.

The Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University and Sodexo: Cooking Together Through Kitchen Challenges

, March 9th, 2012

Each year, more than 5,000 energetic students lend their time and talents to Campus Kitchens across America and last Sunday at the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern (CKNU) was no different.  With help from Sodexo staff, CKNU held its first cooking shift of the semester and prepared about 150 meals. Normally, CKNU uses food that has already been prepared and recovered, so you may be wondering – why cook?

Well, a few weeks ago a Leadership Team member noticed a large number of kidney beans in the pantry that would expire in the next few months.  Instead of letting the beans expire, students got creative and searched the pantry for other items that would work with the beans to make a meal.

With the help of Grace Knight, Lead Manager at Allison Dining Hall who kindly volunteered her Sunday, volunteers were able to use the beans in a chili.  Grace helped students choose a recipe, cut up vegetables, and showed the Leadership Team the secret to perfectly seasoned chili. Sunday is just one example of how Sodexo and its staff support the CKNU.

Sodexo has supported CKNU since the kitchen was founded in 2003, and has donated almost 7,000 pounds since August alone. Sodexo has also supported CKNU during various seasonal events. Last November, they supported CKNU during TurkeyPalooza by donating over 1,500 pounds of food and helping volunteers cook and slice turkeys, and in the summer of 2011, Sodexo helped distribute 22,000 meals through the Feeding Our Future program.

Sodexo District Manager Steve Mangan recognized the importance of the partnership. “Feeding the hungry goes hand-in-hand with our dining operation at Northwestern and is a part of Sodexo’s commitment to the communities we serve,” Mangan states. “The Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University has been an integral partner in our efforts for many years. We look forward to growing this relationship and moving it forward.”

Sodexo and CKNU do not only share a common kitchen, but also a common goal: teach, reach, feed, and lead. We look forward to the next cooking shift and any challenges it may pose – does anyone have any ideas on how we can cook with peanut butter?