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February 11, 2013

Part 3 – Work that Matters

Recently, Mike Schrader said to me, “One of the best things about what we do is having the opportunity to learn about so many different things – to meet organizations that are doing so much good. We are fortunate to tell their stories.” Which brings us to part three in our “Work that Matters”

Last fall, Moxie had the opportunity spend time with one of these exceptional organizations and document their story. For the past 25 years, D.C. Central Kitchen has been transforming people’s lives in the inner city of our nation’s capitol.

Here’s how DC Central Kitchen CEO Mike Curtain describes their mission:

DC Central Kitchen is based on a very simple premise that waste is wrong. Whether that waste is food, productive minds, or kitchen space. So what we do is we take food that’s been thrown away or will be thrown away, bring it to the kitchen, we prepare that food using men and women uh who have been marginalized or in many ways thrown away by society, train them, uh give them a skill so they can go out and work in the hospitality industry and break that cycle of homelessness, hunger and poverty on their own.

It’s so simple but so powerful…

Here’s how it works:

It all starts by finding and using food that would otherwise have been thrown away. Edible, healthy produce local growers find hard to sell, maybe for aesthetic reasons. Tomatoes that aren’t round or shiny enough, potatoes with exterior blemishes, squash that is too small or too large for grocery stores to sell. All this healthy food used to go to waste. But through a visionary combination of business and non-profit partnering, the D.C. Central Kitchen has worked out pricing deals to buy this unglamorous, but good-tasting, real food (all grown within a 150 mile radius of central Washington D.C.) and put it to work in Washington DC’s inner city.

The next step is to help men and women that need a second (or third) chance, by teaching them self-sufficiency and new skills in the hospitality industry. The training they receive is a source of empowerment, and helps break the cycle of homelessness, hunger and poverty. They prepare the food, to the tune of 10,000 meals a day – providing healthy meals to feed shelters and schools.

So what is the kitchen’s ultimate goal? CEO, Mike Curtain, describes it like this:,

“…Our goal is not to do more meals; it’s to do fewer meals smarter so ultimately we don’t have to do any. Now will that happen anytime soon? Probably not. But if we continue to train men and women so they can get their own jobs and get on to a life, to a life of self-sufficiency, then we’re going to be closer to, to solving these problems.

The D.C. Central Kitchen has a quite a story. It’s one of those rare examples of a situation where everyone wins…

Local farmers are provided with a new market for their produce.

Children and families in need are provided with healthy, nutritious food.

And, an otherwise marginalized population of inner city residents are given a fresh start.

It is a story we feel fortunate to help tell…