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A Year in Review: Healthy School Foods

June marks the end of another school year and DC Central Kitchen’s eighth year as a foodservice provider for DC Public Schools. Join us in looking back and celebrating the accomplishments of our Healthy School Food program this academic year.

Since August, we served over 1.4 million healthy, scratch-cooked meals at 15 schools in DC, including 11 DC Public Schools in Ward 7, one DC Public School in Ward 6, and three mission-driven private schools serving children from low-income households. We further expanded our commitment to buying local, ensuring that one locally sourced ingredient was featured on every single plate and working directly with more than 30 local family farms throughout the year. We also built new relationships with local businesses, including with Dress it up Dressing, a woman-owned company that provided us with a new salad dressing option that we first served with Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program snacks – which we often use to introduce new produce items to school children – and then then expanding our purchases to serve  our salad bars and supper menus.

We didn’t stop with serving local food in the cafeteria. The year was filled with Cafeteria Chefs lessons, International Food Days (featuring food from Cameroon, Japan, Paraguay and more), and Fresh Feature Friday taste tests. All these programs serve as platforms for students to voice opinions, assist in recipe development, and learn more about where their food comes from. This year, collard green slaw, sweet potato fries, and Korean cauliflower were all added to our regular menus because of student feedback. Cafeteria Chefs, which features in-classroom lessons on healthy eating and cooking demos of recipes that students see on the lunch line, had students creating recipes like lemon parmesan kale salad and tomato salsa. One class from River Terrace even built on their in-classroom experience by taking a field trip to the Nutrition Lab, our social enterprise hub in Northeast DC where our farm-to-school production activities take place each day.

Not only do we care about where the food on the plates come from, but we also want to be sure that the students we’re serving enjoy their meals. During November 2017 and again in May 2018, we conducted satisfaction surveys of hundreds of students from third through eighth grade 8.  When we compared the results from November to May, we found an overall improvement in student satisfaction with our meals and their cafeteria experience – with rates rising from an already strong 94% to a near-perfect 98%.

These types of successes are only possible with the support of a host of local partners. We’re grateful for the partnership of the DC Public Schools Office of Food and Nutrition Services, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), and the school administrators, faculty members, staff, and students who have helped create real community in each of the cafeterias we serve. We’re grateful for the parents and partner nonprofits who have generously lent their time and insight to our events, advisory meetings, and educational activities. We’re grateful for philanthropic supporters who understand the win/win nature of our model, from CoBank’s support of our local sourcing capacity to Target’s investments in our educational programs. And we’re grateful for the support of our community, which believes school food can be nutritious, local, sustainable, and dignified if we do it right. Thank you all for another great year!