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: May 2012

Strawberries and Salad Greens at DC Public Schools

, May 31st, 2012

Last week schools throughout DC took part in the third annual Strawberries and Salad Greens day, a spring harvest celebration of fresh, local produce started by our friends at the DC Farm to School Network.

While we work hard to build relationships with growers that allow us to feature fresh, local product throughout the school year, we always look forward to events like these that get the kids extra excited about eating all the fruits and veggies on their plates.

The strawberries served last week came from Kilmer’s Farm in Inwood, West Virginia and the romaine lettuce used came from Baywater Greens in Salisbury, Maryland.

So far this year, we have purchased 33,008 lbs of local food from Kilmer’s and Baywater combined.

This summer, over the course of just 6 weeks, we will purchase 32,000 lbs of local food from our 13 partner growers for summer school meals.

As you can see, the strawberries were a big hit. The student on the left told us that he had never tasted a strawberry before, and loved them.

Students at Thomas Elementary School also received a visit from the Truck Farm, our traveling, edible exhibit that teaches urban kids about healthy food and how it grows.

Classes from each grade level spent time visiting the truck to touch, smell and taste some of the herbs and veggies growing inside, including salad greens, basil and dinosaur kale.

The kids also got their hands in the dirt when the truck farmers helped them plant sunflower seeds that they were able to take back to their classrooms.

How appropriate for the kids to get to see how their food is planted and grown on this day celebrating the local spring harvest!

Staff Profiles: Michael Robb, Culinary Job Training Program Graduate

, May 29th, 2012

Michael Robb is a Culinary Job Training Alum who now works as a Production Chef Supervisor for DC Central Kitchen. He tells his incredible story here.Michael Robb

How did you find out about DC Central Kitchen and what did you expect before you got into the Culinary Job Training Program?

My parole officer sent me here because I didn’t have a job. I really didn’t know what to expect because it’s at the bottom at the shelter. I thought I was just coming to a soup kitchen. Cooking as a career was the last thing on my mind. I thought this was going to be just something I’d do for a while because my parole officer told me to. When I got here, this place just took over me.

When you started the Culinary Job Training program what were the challenges you faced?
Ron’s life skills class was definitely hard for me. I was isolated from the world for 10 years. And I was used to interacting with just a small group of people every day. I couldn’t cope with it at first, but I eventually got through it.

Did you get inspiration from any of your classmates?
It took people like Dawain Arrington (CJT Alum and Kitchen Supervisor) who had been where I had been to get me to open up. I saw that he could do it so I thought I could do it.

What’s your favorite thing about working at DC Central Kitchen
I love all the people I get to meet. I get to meet volunteers from all over the world. I can always find one common thing we can relate to: food.

How are you furthering your skills? Do you have a specialty?
Just last July, I graduated from the Art Institute with a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts. I’m following in Chef Jerald’s footsteps. I loved working with food and learning new things. I really like working with chocolate and I’d love to open a business someday.

What are some life lessons or takeaways you got from the Culinary Job Training Program?
I think I learned to accept and deal with different types of people. Ron (DCCK’s Self Empowerment Specialist) in particular, he’s from a different world.  I’m from the projects and I had to learn about the other side of things. I feel like I can more broadly relate to people now.

What advice would you give an entering student to the program?
Have an open mind, listen, and keep your mouth shut – because a lot of people talk, but they don’t listen.

Talk about Chef Jerald, our Culinary Instructor:
Chef Jerald is my mentor. I’ve never had a father figure and he’s like a father figure to me. We have spent some weekends together. He’s taught me how to cook, how to use time wisely in the kitchen. All my management skills I’ve learned from Jerald. The majority of things I learned how to cook, I didn’t even learn in Culinary School, I learned from Jerald. It all helped me finish 2nd in my class. I wouldn’t know what to do without Jerald.

Meet Irvin Parker, Healthy Corners Store Owner

, May 22nd, 2012

Irvin Parker is the owner of Suburban Market, a Healthy Corners store selling fresh fruits, veggies and other healthy snacks on Sherriff Road in North East.

We stopped in to ask Mr. Parker about his involvement in the program. Here’s is his story:

Mr. Parker: “I’ve owned Suburban Market and been in this neighborhood for 50 years.”

I want to make people healthier. I sell healthy products because healthy eating leads to weight loss. 

Two years ago, I stopped selling cigarettes even though I knew customers would be upset about this choice at first.”

Mr. Parker’s commitment to improving the health and lives of his neighbors can also be seen in the healthy shopping tips he has posted around the store.

Posters urge customers to eat more fruits & vegetables and opt for water over soda.

Through his participation in the Healthy Corners program, Mr. Parker is able order the fresh fruits and veggies that he promotes at reasonable prices and in the quantities that he needs!

5 Ways DC Central Kitchen is Standing Up for Real Food

, May 18th, 2012

Kids like eating healthy

Saturday is Food Revolution Day and DC Central Kitchen is starting a food revolution right here in DC through groundbreaking programs. Here are five ways we’re standing up for healthy, nutritious food.

1. Serving Healthy Complete Meals to Partner Agencies
For the past few years, we have increased the share of unprepared donated produce and starches in our meals and have decreased the amount of processed/unhealthy food we serve (pizza and tater tots, for example). We’re working to make our shelter meals healthy and nutritious for clients who depend on them.

2. Serving Healthy Meals in DC Public Schools
By serving over 4,600 scratch cooked meals a day to students at 8 DC Public Schools, we’re breaking nutritional barriers and getting kids into healthy eating. We’re also teaching kids about where food comes from via the Truck Farm and providing cooking classes for parents and teachers. There are no deep fryers used in preparing these meals!

3. Using Local Produce for Fresh Start Catering
Last year, DCCK invested over $114,700 in local produce, supporting farmers and bringing fresh fruits and veggies to its catering social enterprise.

4. Delivering Fresh Produce to DC Corner Stores

Last year, we engaged nearly 10,000 DC Residents through outreach events to eat healthier and through Healthy Corners we’ve partnered with DC corner stores to deliver fresh fruits and veggies to low income neighborhoods in DC without access to fully stocked supermarkets.

5. Providing Nutritional Training to Culinary Job Training Students
We’ve built nutritional education into our Culinary Job Training Program and held our first Healthy Plate Cook-Off this year.

Meet Jimmy Singleton, a Healthy Corners Store Owner

, May 15th, 2012

Jimmy SingletonJimmy Singleton is the owner of Marbury Market, a partner store in our Healthy Corners program, which is delivering fresh fruits and veggies to corner stores in wards 4, 5, 7, and 8. Those wards contain food deserts, large urban areas that are too far from fully-stocked supermarkets with fresh produce.

With Healthy Corners, DC Central Kitchen is partnering with small business owners like Jimmy to change the way his whole community eats.

We recently stopped by to ask what made him want to get involved in Healthy Corners. Here is his story:

Jimmy: “When I first opened this store and stocked healthy foods, they never sold. I was always taking them home to eat so I wouldn’t have to just throw it all away. So I started asking my customers what they wanted in the store.

All of their suggestions were for junk food – sticky buns, soda, cookies, etc. I couldn’t figure out what was so great about this junk food so I decided to try eating like my customers. I gained nearly 100 lbs over the course of one year. I wore size 48 pants and I couldn’t fit into regular shoes.

Then I started cooking at home again and I lost nearly all the weight I had gained. When the Healthy Corners program came, I started eating fresh produce from the store.

Now when people come into the store and see how much weight I lost, they ask me how I did it. I tell them I changed my diet and started eating healthy. Now they ask me to stock more healthy foods.

Healthy Corners made it possible for me to do that because the prices were cheaper than Sam’s Club and other wholesale stores.”

Culinary Job Training Class 88’s Cook Off: Egg Foo Young

, May 10th, 2012

Yesterday, Culinary Job Training Class 88 cooked off to produce their best rendition of Egg Foo Young. They were joined by 7 judges: Ken Crerar (Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers), Rhonda Small, Tony Lipari, and Kim Tate from the United Way, Kate Jansen from Willow Restaurant (and her mother Jane), and Reuven Sugarman from Cuba Libre.

New Culinary Instructor Afiya Howell explained how the class prepared all week by making test versions of the dish and learning to work in teams. Marianne Ali, Director of Culinary Job Training, expressed how learning to work with others is an important component of the program.

Zachary Mason, Class 88 Student, said of his experiences thus far: “The past 6 weeks for me have been beautiful. I learn something new every day. I like the hustle bustle, the rush of kicking it out.”

Congrats to Clyde, Millena, Kaprina, Loretta, and Haywood from Team Dim Sum and Dim Sum More, who took first place. Thanks to all of the judges who asked very enlightening questions to our students.

The winning team with judges

It's hot in that Kitchen

Egg Foo Young