September marks many things. The return to school. The start of fall. The beginning of football season. It’s also Hunger Action Month, a time to raise awareness about the stark reality of food insecurity across the nation and to shine a light on the organizations taking a stand to solve it.
Here at DC Central Kitchen, we are fighting hunger 365 days a year, serving thousands of nutritious meals daily, creating jobs for individuals facing barriers to employment, and expanding access to fresh groceries in neighborhoods experiencing food apartheid. But we couldn’t do what we do without the support of our friends and allies. Friends like DC Food Project, a group of DC-area moms who started implementing food pantries at schools across DC in 2018. As a partner of their Pantry Program and frequent volunteers at their food distribution sites, we are long-time, proud supporters of DC Food Project.
To spotlight their plan to mitigate hunger this school year, we invited DC Food Project to share their history, mission, and innovative solutions with us. Read below to learn more about their essential work in their own words.
Back to School with DC Food Project
The end of summer and beginning of fall finds us reflecting on memories of a wonderful few weeks in the sun as we transition to the jumble of new schedules, earlier sunsets, and the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. It is always a busy time of new beginnings and feels especially so at DC Food Project as we enter into Back to School season, which means the re-launch of all of our programs throughout schools in DC. September also marks Hunger Action Month. As children go back to school, it is as ever critical to ensure they have what they need to learn, to feel confident and excited – and not wonder where their next meal will come from. If you’re reading this blog, we’re pretty sure you know this struggle all too well.
But let us back up for a second and introduce ourselves to those who may not know us. DC Food Project is a non-profit organization launched in 2018 by a group of DC area moms to help school children and their families get additional food during the school day and over the weekends when school meals are not available to them. DC Food Project fills what we refer to as “the gap” — what happens when lunch and the school day is over? This gap has an impact on tens of thousands of students, with 1 in 5 children struggling with hunger in DC alone.
So now, imagine a city where kids aren’t hungry. Where snack time isn’t a time of stress for a child who may not have one. Where dinner isn’t a time for a child and their family to decide – “should we buy food or toiletries, because we can’t afford both?” Where food, as a human right, is not in question. Sure, it’s a big mission – but if we can be a part of the solution, then, we shall.
Our team sprung into action five years ago with an aim to reduce food waste in schools while improving access to healthy food for students in DC. This focus clarified the increased need for food and toiletries among children in the classroom, so we launched the Pantry Program.
The Pantry is a place where students have discreet access to food, age-appropriate toiletries, and other household items they need to survive and thrive. With our partners at DC Central Kitchen, the Pantry Program is now in over 35 schools throughout our city, supporting over 1,600 pre-identified students. Our goal for this year is to not only expand the program – but to double it. And eventually, to triple it – until we can provide pantries in all schools across the city.
DC Food Project’s Pantry Program: Why it Matters
“Many of the students/families who attend our school are undocumented or underserved. The DC Food Project Pantry helps to supplement meals or to provide entire meals for families in need. For some, this donation may provide the only access for families until they are able to provide for themselves.”
– Michelle Allen, Harriet Tubman Elementary School
“Having a food pantry onsite helps the students feel less stressed and worried about a basic need not being met. When a student is having a hard time focusing because they have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, we can’t expect them to learn.”
– Corease Doty, Roosevelt STAY Opportunity Academy
“This has helped our families out in ways I can’t imagine. They are able to come to school knowing that if they are hungry or need deodorant or other things you offer they are able to get them. My families bring scholars to our school for this purpose.”
– Bianca Tobias, Hope Community PCS
So there you have it. Sometimes simple solutions go a long way, and we believe in ours full-heartedly.
If you’ve read this far, we thank you. We are beyond thankful for our community’s support – and to our partners at DC Central Kitchen who saw what we were doing, realized we needed help, and raised their hand to say, we’re in.
Here’s to a new school year!
Alysa, Katie, Krista & Lucie
DC Food Project Co-Founders