DC Central Kitchen:
Not Your Mama's Soup Kitchen
Carla Hall’s culinary talents and sparkling smile have made her a household name. But for all her blessings, Carla never forgets that there are households struggling to put meals on the table. That’s why she supports DC Central Kitchen.
First encountering DCCK in 1995 as a culinary school student, Carla has maintained a special relationship with the organization, serving on the board of directors, participating in the Capital Food Fight fundraiser, and promoting DC Central Kitchen as one of the hosts of ABC’s The Chew.
It is not, said partnerships and planning coordinator Katherine Eklund, a typical soup kitchen. DC Central Kitchen serve about 80 social services agencies every day, providing 5,000 meals to help the agencies focus on moving their clients forward.
“Our goal isn’t just to keep feeding people meals,” Katherine said. “Our goal is to ensure people don’t need those meals.”
Of DCCK’s many valuable programs, one that sticks out in Carla’s mind is the Culinary Job Training program, which trains unemployed and underemployed, homeless and previously incarcerated adults for careers in the food service industry.
“It’s something we take for granted,” Carla said, “having a work ethic. There is nothing more life changing than seeing somebody (at training graduation) being able to show his family, “I’ve changed. I’m going through a metamorphosis.”
Many of the Job Training graduates stay on as volunteers. Carla recalls one woman who had a perpetual smile.
“She didn’t have the greatest teeth, but she smiled. She was a beacon of light. Whenever you went there, her answer was ‘yes, how can I help’ you can have absolutely nothing, but when you have a smile to give people, it changes people. It changes the people who are coming through the doors. You can change people with a smile and a positive attitude.”
Top Ten Reasons We Love
DC Central Kitchen
1. DC Central Kitchen helps fight food waste. They recover quality food that would have otherwise been discarded, simply because of appearance, from wholesalers, and convert it into healthy meals.
2. They distribute nutritious meals and snacks to corner stores in DC’s food deserts, helping ensure people in all neighborhoods have access to healthy, affordable food.
3. In 2013, DCCK served more than 2100 young people through agencies promoting youth mentorship, health education and job readiness.
4. DC Central Kitchen is invested in its Culinary Job Training graduates, providing ongoing services, job assistance, and even grocery bundles.
5. DC Central Kitchen invests in children. They work with 10 schools in Wards 7 and 8 to provide nutritious meals every day.
6. DCCK supports the environment and local economy. Thirty percent of items for school meals are grown locally or nearby.
7. The Culinary Job Training program isn’t just about skills, it’s about people. The program includes a self-empowerment course to help students deal with their challenges and learn strategies for overcoming them.
8. By delivering meals to 80 partner agencies, DC Central Kitchen saved those agencies more than $3.7 million in food costs last year, allowing both money and time to be spent focusing on the missions.
9. From karaoke parties to easy food donations, DC Central Kitchen offers plenty of ways for you to make a contribution.
10. DC Central Kitchen puts its money where their mouth is: The catering service – Fresh Start Catering – employs graduates of the job training program.
DC Central Kitchen
Quips 'n Quotes
"Using food as our tool, we strive focus on the root causes of hunger and poverty work to empower men and women to live lives of self-sufficiency... Ultimately, the Kitchen is about creating systems of empowerment that create a more just food system for all. - Michael Curtin, Chief Executive Officer, DC Central Kitchen
“Health is as much of a focus as it can be.” – Tracey Sero, Assistant Director of Kitchen Operations
“If it weren’t for DC Central Kitchen, I don’t know where I’d be.” – Marvin, served 30 years in prison, now employed at DC Central Kitchen
“Hunger is a symptom of other issues. It’s caused by other problems and it causes other problems.” – Katherine Eklund, Partnerships and Planning Coordinator
“I enjoy working with the volunteers. I have a lot of gratitude.” – Tarina, production chef, 2010 graduate of the Culinary Job Training program
“DC Central Kitchen taught me hyper-focus, and a dedication to detail and learning new things.” – Abby Woods, 2013 DCCK Culinary Job Training graduate, now employed in the kitchen of the Eisenhower Executive Office building.
“Remember to go and visit any of your soup kitchens during, as they say in the Catholic church, ordinary times, and not just during the holidays, because the need is 365 days a year.” – Carla Hall
Want to know Carla Hall's celebrity crush? And what her Thanksgiving dessert of choice would be? Check out our Outtakes with Carla Hall!