Community Connections: DC Central Kitchen

May 3, 2010

By Jo Cooper

Awesome alert: DC Central Kitchen is doing phenomenal, caring work in feeding people, training people, employing people and changing lives.

It’s also smart work– one of those marvelously orchestrated instances where the good serves the practical. The equation is something like: feeding people healthy food = the opportunity to train people to cook = good jobs = meeting community needs on multiple levels, including a spectrum of people from ex-offenders to school children and parents.

Started in January 1989 to redistribute food leftover from the Presidential inauguration, the kitchen now serves an average of 4,500 meals per day across the DC area, incorporating fresh, local produce and recycling over one ton of surplus food every day from area food service businesses.

Programs also include First Helping, street-level meal service; a Culinary Job Training program; Fresh Start Catering (“Eat Local. Do Good.”); area crop gleaning; and The Campus Kitchens Project (“Student-Powered Hunger Relief”), redistributing cafeteria food in local communities in 20 locations nationwide.

In a little office off the vast kitchen, I talked recently with Robert Egger, Founder and President, and Allison Sosna, Executive Chef of Fresh Start Catering, about where things are headed—about the increasing need in our society for community, the need to find our ‘tribes’— about a new generation wanting to incorporate doing good into living their lives, not ‘giving back’ later; about the model Allison has created with feeding children local and sustainable food in schools in a program recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama in her Let’s Move program.

Walking out of our meeting, I passed through the kitchens, a world of quiet, peaceful industry, with dozens of volunteers and staff cooks prepping and preparing foods—and saw the culinary program students taking a break outside in the alleyway under the blue sky of a spring day.

As my 15 year old says, it’s all good.