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School’s (Almost) Out for Summer

DC Central Kitchen

Another school year is coming to an end. For the tens of thousands of  District schoolchildren who depend on school cafeterias for their primary source of daily meals, the season isn’t always a carefree one. Nearly 14% of households with children in the nation’s capital struggle to afford enough food, and with the recent reduction in SNAP benefits due to the end of Federal pandemic emergency assistance, that number has increased even more over the last several months. Our team here at DC Central Kitchen has been busy working to find bigger, badder, bolder solutions to this rising need in our community, leveraging our expanded new headquarters and local farm partnerships to provide more summer meals than ever before.

“We ensure schoolchildren have access to healthy and nutritious meals while school is out while helping alleviate some of the stress and worry their families are experiencing due to reduced benefits and rising food costs,” says DC Central Kitchen Community Meals Manager Crystal Nicholas. “Our partners use our meals to keep kids engaged with fun activities, enrichment, field trips, and exercise in safe environments for additional peace of mind!”

This summer, DC Central Kitchen will be working with dozens of organizations, like Little Lights Urban Ministries, which runs a five-week summer camp for children in the Benning Terrace and Benning Heights Communities. Participants receive academic support and enrichment activities like cooking classes, arts and crafts, and swimming.

“Our partnership with DC Central Kitchen allows us to provide healthy and delicious meals to our students every camp day. The cost of meals is free to us, so that is a tremendous help to us budget-wise,” says Little Lights Program Director Karmen Taylor. “It would be very difficult and costly for us to provide the same quality of meals to our students without this partnership that’s now in its 7th season, so it’s an absolute relief to know that we can serve our students a meal that tastes good and is good for them.”   

In addition to Little Lights, DC Central Kitchen will be delivering summer meals to high-impact partners across DC like Benning Courts Community Center, Carver Hall Community Center, Congress Park Community Center, Education Plus2, Frederick Douglass Community Center, Many Languages One Voice (MLOV), Sitar Arts Center, and numerous FRESHFARM Markets locations, including Anacostia Museum, Cesar Chavez Elementary, Kenilworth Rec Center, and East River Park Shopping Center on Minnesota Avenue. We are especially excited to build on our years-long meal delivery and healthy cooking partnership with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy by providing meals at their four YBA PLAY program sites across DC.

“YBA PLAY provides fun, free, and accessible opportunities for youth to learn and grow on the baseball field during the summer months,” says Tal Alter, CEO of Nationals Philanthropies. “Expanding our partnership with D.C. Central Kitchen to offer free meals to participants and their families will help more area residents and give our young players the fuel they need to give their all on the diamond.”

Thanks to our community partners, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, and the monumental generosity of Washington Wizards superstar Bradley Beal, we can do even more for the community this summer! In addition to working with our Summer Feeding program partners, our Healthy School Food teams will shift into summer feeding mode later this month, serving scratch-cooked hot and cold meals at a handful of open school sites throughout Ward 7 to anyone 18 and under – with no need to pre-register or enroll! Our mobile meals trucks will also roll out of our new headquarters on a daily basis filled with free healthy, delicious meals to visit areas of our city with especially acute gaps in food access.

It’s not too late to get involved with our summer meals programming! If you are a program leader who is interested in receiving and serving summer meals from DC Central Kitchen, contact our Community Meals Manager Crystal Nicholas at cnicholas@dccentralkitchen.org for more information. We encourage parents to reach out to any of our partners to inquire about enrolling in their enrichment programs this summer. And to help us secure all the local farm products we need to make all these healthy meals, a generous anonymous donor is matching all donations to DC Central Kitchen’s food purchasing needs through June 30!