State Dispatches: Washington, D.C

Article excerpt

The D.C. Central Kitchen once confined its activities to collecting food and preparing meals for the area's hungry-a formidable task in itself. For the past seven years, however, the D.C. Central Kitchen has taken its activities one step further by operating a program in which unemployed individuals learn marketable skills in the food service industry. Over a three-month period, 12 students attend morning classes to expand their culinary expertise, learning to roast chicken, prepare salads, and bake a variety of desserts, among other activities. (Approximately 10 percent of applicants are selected for program participation.) The food they prepare is then distributed to 125 shelters and direct-service and nonprofit organizations around the city.

At the same time as they are developing their skills in the kitchen, students are learning what will be expected of them in a job-showing up on time, for instance, or working together with classmates to accomplish a task. "We're trying to get people well-versed in personal responsibility, food sanitation, and basic work skills, " says Robert Egger, director of the D. C. Central Kitchen. "We're also making them part of a team that's taking care of people in the city who don't have enough. " Upon completion of the program, 90 percent of students find jobs; equally as important, 85 percent keep them.

With the nationwide push to move individuals into work, Egger feels that "the time is right to address not only hunger, but also the root causes of hunger, such as unemployment. " Philip Morris Companies, Inc., agrees: Due to the proram 's success. Philip Morris has awarded a $125,000 grant to Foodchain, a national network of 127 prepared and perishable food rescue programs, to launch similar initiatives nationwide through a program called Community Kitchens.

"This idea makes sense on a number of levels, " says Christina Martin, executive director of Foodchain. …

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