On January 20, the nation marked the inauguration of a new president. But that same day, just a few blocks away, DC Central Kitchen celebrated our 28th birthday.
On January 20, 1989 during the inauguration of George H. W. Bush, Robert Egger launched DC Central Kitchen as he picked up leftover food from inaugural balls and delivered it back to a central kitchen location where it would be turned into meals for the community. We’ve come a long way since 1989, now using recovered food consisting mostly of fresh produce to prepare more than 5,000 healthy meals for our community each day. While most of the District essentially shut down in the days leading up to and on inauguration day, DC Central Kitchen remained open. We never take a day off – not during a snow storm, a national holiday, or even when our main kitchen location is barricaded in the ‘red zone’ of DC street closures for the presidential inauguration.
DCCK’s kitchen operations and transportation teams began planning how we would continue our meal production and delivery efforts during the inauguration well before the start of the holiday season. Rather than skip a day of meals, our dedicated staff of cooks and drivers ramped up their efforts to send two days’ worth of meals out on Thursday, covering all partner agencies who would normally receive meals on Friday. And, even after we prepared and delivered 10,000 meals on Thursday, we still welcomed staff and volunteers to our kitchen on Friday to prepare meals for the following day.
For more than four weeks, our procurement team began identifying ingredients that could be served cold, ensuring that clients at agencies without ovens or reheating equipment could still receive their meals. And, in addition to the challenge of sending meals out of the Kitchen, our team had to work around the complicated logistics of receiving deliveries at our facility during inauguration week. Many companies were unable to access our loading dock after Tuesday, which meant we had to remain diligent with our inventory, receive deliveries a week earlier than usual, and identify alternate on-site storage to accommodate for the increased product.
All told, DC Central Kitchen delivered 10,547 meals the day before the inauguration and an additional 700 meals for Red Cross employees from January 18-20. We never take a day off – the health and nourishment of our neighbors is too important. That’s why, on DCCK’s 28th anniversary, we did what we do every day – we used food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build our community to make us a stronger and more inclusive city for everyone.