At the beginning of this year, DC Central Kitchen welcomed Ja’Sent Brown to the team as our Chief Impact Officer. Ja’Sent joins our senior management team and shares the responsibility of establishing organization-wide objectives and setting strategic direction for DC Central Kitchen. In this role, Ja’Sent will combine her love of data monitoring and evaluation, strategic planning, and staff development to create an impact on DCCK and the community we serve – learn more about what she hopes to bring to the organization below.
Tell us about your professional journey – what are the threads that led you here?
I worked for DC Government for over 13 years. I worked as the Homeless Education State Coordinator for 5 years at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). There, I was able to ensure that all students had access to an appropriate education that was equal to their peers who had stable housing. My work was rewarding, and the program turned into a national model. From that point, I moved to the DC Reengagement Center, where I served as the inaugural director and shaped the program’s framework. While both of these positions were fulfilling, after I finished graduate school to obtain my master’s in social work, I knew I wanted to make a bigger impression on the DC community. I started researching organizations that shared my values of serving the community and providing meaningful programs. Over and over again, DC Central Kitchen was mentioned as the leader in this space. It was a perfect fit!
What is it about DC Central Kitchen’s mission and programs that inspired you to join this organization?
DC Central Kitchen is a household name in the DC community. In my previous career, I often referred people to the Culinary Job Training program. However, I have become more aware of the great impact this organization is having on the community as a whole. From providing fresh fruits and vegetables in corner stores, to bringing high quality and nutritious meals to individuals facing homelessness and in our schools. I thought, “This is something that I have to be a part of!” My personal mission in life aligns with DC Central Kitchen’s mission: to have a great impact on our community, and to run programming and services that are meaningful to each person we serve.
What are you most excited to get involved with and be part of here at DCCK?
Given my history working with youth and education, I’m most excited to get involved with DC Central Kitchen Cafe, Healthy School Food, and Culinary Job Training. But now that I’ve learned more about Healthy Corners and our nutrition and community education programming, I’m excited to get involved with that work, too. I have learned to rethink my personal grocery list, and now I educate my own children when we run into a convenience store. My colleagues have even shared “kid-friendly” recipes with me for weekend activities with my children. I’m excited to learn more about their work and the work of other teams throughout the organization.
Ten years from now, what would you like people to say about your impact at DCCK?
I hope that people would say that I approached every person, idea, situation, and day with the best intentions and the most genuine spirit. I know that there will be bumps along the road, but if I can impact my team and the community by leading with the example of approaching all things from a genuine place, then I believe that my impact here was lasting.