DC Central Kitchen’s culinary graduates step up to meet local needs on Thanksgiving
For three decades, our signature Culinary Job Training program has provided hands-on education and real-world experience to DC residents facing barriers to employment. Our CJT graduates traditionally go on to work at DC hotels, fine dining establishments, and fast-casual eateries but two graduates, Connie and Dawain, have launched their own charitable organizations inspired by their experiences at DC Central Kitchen. Together, their organizations provided turkeys and groceries this last Thanksgiving to more than 130 local families.
Connie Williams completed the Culinary Job Training program two decades ago, going on to earn an AAS in Culinary Arts from Stratford University and dual bachelor’s degrees in both Nutrition and Dietetics and Nutrition and Food Science from the University of the District of Columbia.
In 2018, she founded Plenty to Eat food pantry, serving families, people with disabilities, and seniors she saw were food insecure. This summer, Plenty of Eat received its first-ever grant, a contribution from DC Central Kitchen that helped the pantry meet growing demand under the pandemic. Our partnership has grown in recent months, and Connie worked with DCCK to source and distribute 50 turkeys to Ward 8 families this past Thanksgiving.
“I can no longer just feed one part of our community because there are so many other communities in need,” says Williams. “This year, we’re expanding to give out turkeys in Ward 8. I just want everyone to have a wonderful Thanksgiving.”
Dawain Arrington completed the Culinary Job Training program in 2005 and now serves as a DC Central Kitchen General Manager, overseeing the production of thousands of meals each day for homeless shelters and nonprofits across the city.
In his spare time, Dawain is the co-founder of Men Giving Back to the Community, joining forces with fellow long-time residents Darnell Maddox, Adrian Davis, and Mark Allen. Men Giving Back to the Community is a community group in Ward 7 that uses sports, events, and mentoring to help young people envision and make positive choices.
For Thanksgiving, Arrington and Men Giving Back to the Community distributed 80 Thanksgiving turkeys and 80 large bags of fresh, local produce to Ward 7 families this weekend, all supplied at no cost by DC Central Kitchen.
“This year is different, because even the littlest kids know what’s going on,” says Arrington. “Our community has lots of pride and dignity, so we’re creating ways for people to give what they can and be part of this. All the things going on right now – the pandemic, our politics, the violence that’s taking place – they hurt our community the most, but I know if we take this opportunity to open our minds, work together, and educate young people about these issues, we can stand tall and change things.”
Connie and Dawain were featured on WUSA9’s Get Up DC and spoke about their community efforts. Check out the segment below!
“Our training program doesn’t just train chefs,” says DC Central Kitchen CEO Mike Curtin, Jr. “It builds leaders. Connie and Dawain are living examples of what’s possible when people are brave enough to envision a brighter future and dedicated enough to make that future a reality. I’m honored that these two graduates invited us to be part of their inspiring work this Thanksgiving and throughout this challenging time for our city.”
Since COVID-19 struck Washington, DC, we’ve provided 2.4 million emergency meals, distributed 1.4 million pounds of fresh produce, and served more than 180 locations across our community. DCCK has also provided more than $200,000 in mini-grants and contracts to sustain grassroots nonprofits like Plenty to Eat and local restaurants and caterers who have lost critical revenue during the pandemic.
To learn more about DC Central Kitchen’s hunger relief efforts, visit www.dccentralkitchen.org/covid-19. Donations may be made directly to Plenty to Eat at https://www.plentytoeatdc.org/donate and while anyone interested in donating supplies or gift cards to Men Giving Back to the Community can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.