Beside grand monuments, cherry blossoms, and the glistening Potomac exists a society largely
hidden from the public eye.
The poverty rate in Washington D.C. sits at 17.4 percent, according to the United States Census Bureau. Even in Ward 3, one of D.C.’s most affluent Wards, the number of impoverished residents lies at 8.4 percent. Though about of half the District rate, this percentage still represents over six thousand people living without proper resources. D.C. Central Kitchen works to combat these numbers.
D.C. Central Kitchen partners with various homeless shelters, schools, and nonprofits across all 8 Wards of D.C to provide access to healthy food options and prevent waste. Founded in 1989 by Roger Egger, the organization has various social ventures that they assert “create opportunities for meaningful careers, expand access to healthy food, and test innovative solutions to systemic failures.”
In 2018, 3.2 million meals were prepared for various locations across D.C. The organization combats food insecurity by providing healthy meals for low-income students, delivering healthy snack options to corner stores, and preparing meals for the community at various food shelf locations. Through the Campus Kitchens Project, D.C. Central Kitchen encourages school across the nation to take unused food that would be waste and create meals for those in need.
D.C Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training Program, particularly, aims to tackle one of the root causes of poverty. D.C. Central Kitchen offers a 14-week intensive training program in culinary arts and career readiness.
Recognized by the American Culinary Federation Education
Foundation and funded by donors, admitted students receive quality training and two years of post-graduation support free of cost.
Current student Marlin Scutchins, who is in week 5 of the training program, attests to the support the Culinary Job Training Programs provides students. “They don’t kick nobody out, you basically kick yourself out…they’ll tell you to come back,” he said. Scutchins explained that while 75 percent is the lowest grade you can receive, “Even if you don’t get the score they want you to get they’ll let you do it over.”
Adults that face career barriers with backgrounds that include trauma, incarceration, addiction, and homelessness are given a second chance with the Culinary Job Training Program.
The Culinary Job Training Program, directed by Liz Reinert, boasts an 87 percent job placement rate and a 96 percent reduction in recidivism rate. While some program graduates go on to find jobs in the culinary field, others choose to stay with D.C. Central Kitchen and continue to give back to the community.
The program works to disrupt the cycle of poverty. Scutchins explains that “most of these people that you see work down here—they graduated from the program too.” Through the program, D.C. Central Kitchen creates a new cycle that not only provides essential resources, but an opportunity to build oneself and subsequently, the community.