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We’re launching a youth job training center in DC’s Ward 8

We are excited to announce a bold new plan inspired by the needs and priorities of our community. DC Central Kitchen will be opening a satellite location at THEARC, an iconic campus that is home to more than a dozen high performing nonprofits, schools, and health and wellness services in Ward 8. At this additional location, we’ll provide innovative job training for young people ages 18 to 25 who have become disconnected from work or education.

Why start a satellite location focused on serving youth?

Washington, DC is one of only two states in the U.S. that has seen a rise in the percentage of “opportunity youth,” young adults who are not in school and not working. A recent study by Measure of America reveals that the percentage of opportunity youth in DC rose from 9.6% to 14.8% in 2016, a 54% increase. And if you look at the percentage of opportunity youth by race, 28% of African American youth in DC fall into this category, the highest rate for African American youth in the country. These statistics are unacceptable.

DC Central Kitchen has long been the home of second chances, and we always will be, but what if we could prevent young people from needing a second chance in the future? The individual and structural barriers faced by far too many of our young people are preventing them from transitioning into a productive adulthood, incurring painfully high costs for both these youth and for our community. The Aspen Institute asserts that the lifetime direct cost to tax payers for one 20-year-old who does not reconnect to education or employment is $235,680. That is a waste of both money and potential. All young people deserve the opportunity to build marketable skills, join the workforce, and fulfill their potential.

Joining a community

We were honored when Building Bridges Across the River invited us to join THEARC and are excited to work with this community to build solutions for young adults in DC. We know that we are one part of a much bigger picture, and so we are putting conversations ahead of construction and learning from others where to get started. DC Central Kitchen staff are attending community meetings, having conversations with leaders and organizations, and building relationships with nearby residents. We are taking our time to learn from the people and organizations making an impact in their community so that we can create informed programming that builds on these tremendous assets. This summer we will be holding focus groups with young people and families to further develop our plans. We are so grateful to our future neighbors at THEARC as well as the community-based organizations, resident associations, faith communities, and others who have shared their time, knowledge, and visions with us already. We invite you to contact us with programming ideas, partnership suggestions, and invitations to events and meetings where we can continue to learn.

More about the space:

This 5,000 square-foot space will include a commercial kitchen where we can build on our three decades of experience teaching marketable culinary skills. But it will also house our first ever café; this café will allow us to train young people in essential front-of-house like customer service, time management, and point of sale operation while giving them a stake in the success of this retail social venture. We’ll make the most of every square foot by also using our kitchen to prepare nutritious, scratch-cooked meals for the schoolchildren attending class at THEARC and using the café to host nutrition education and cooking demos for the community. Below are some initial sketches of the space:

If you are interested in supporting this campaign, please donate here.