DC Central Kitchen takes pride in the nutritious, scratch-cooked school meals we serve to 4,000 low-income students at 15 DC schools every day. But we don’t just provide meals. We’re also engaging students in building healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
For the past two years, our Healthy School Food program has been proud to partner with River Terrace Special Education Campus, a citywide school that serves the 1% of the DC Public Schools student population with the greatest needs, including intellectual disabilities. In that time, our staff have built strong, personal bonds with River Terrace students, making the effort to understand each student’s ability level and customize our meals accordingly. That process of learning and listening has helped us find ways to maintain our standards for serving healthy, dignified meals to all students, no matter what individual barriers they may face.
As these personal relationships took root, our dedicated Healthy School Food team took the initiative of going one step further and is now finding ways to help prepare these students for healthful, fulfilling lives. This month we welcomed students from River Terrace for our first-ever field trip at DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition Lab, the social enterprise hub in Northeast, DC where our farm-to-school production activities take place each day.
The field trip was a continuation of our specialized programming with students enrolled in River Terrace’s workforce development program, which aims to prepare students for the job market. Students spend one to two years in the program, focusing on one of three tracks – hospitality, horticulture or medical services. As part of the hospitality program, River Terrace students have spent time in a traditional classroom as well as time working a variety of jobs at a local hotel. They joined our staff for a tour before spending the rest of the morning assisting in preparing healthy DC Central Kitchen meals. The field trip gave the students the opportunity to build on their hospitality training and see a larger kitchen in action.
Our team also joined the River Terrace students earlier this month for a special version of our signature “Cafeteria Chefs” initiative, which features in-classroom lessons on healthy eating and cooking demos of recipes that students see on the lunch line. For this lesson, students built their own custom salad based on the MyPlate nutritional guidelines. Our team’s lead cook at River Terrace selected the winners: Karla for her Chicken and Apple Salad and Breana for her complimentary Honey Lime dressing. We empowered these students to hold their own taste test for the school during lunch later that week.
DC Central Kitchen has an old motto from our earliest days: “cook as you would for your own family.” Our team at River Terrace has embraced this idea, and we are proud to be part of the family at River Terrace, where food is lowering barriers, building connections, and broadening horizons.