Wednesday, October 7, 2009

DC Central Kitchen

There are a number of REALLY GREAT organizations here in the DC area that are doing work to address hunger issues.  Today I want to talk about DC Central Kitchen.

DC Central Kitchen puts into practice the saying "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime."  One of their signature programs is the Culinary Job Training program that helps homeless, unemployed, underemployed, and previously incarcerated individuals learn both the "hard" and "soft" skills that are needed to work in a commercial kitchen.  Graduates of the program are also assisted in finding a job, so that their new skills are not wasted.

And this is only one of their programs.  They have their own in-house catering company that employs graduates of the Culinary Job Training program, they participate with DC colleges in the Campus Kitchens project, they have a food recycling program, and utilize efficiencies to distribute meals to other local social services organizations at a lower cost than if those organizations had to prepare the meals on their own.


Their annual fundraiser is coming up, with discount tickets on sale through Friday.  Here is the email that I got this morning:

60 Restaurants, 5 Battling Chefs, 
ONE Fight Against Hunger

The Capital Food Fight is less than 6 weeks away!
On Wednesday, November 11, you can sample food and beverage from 60 of DC's best restaurants, watch live battles between 5 of the area’s hottest chefs, and see national food celebrities hosting the event.
The early discount ends Friday, so act now to save $25 on your tickets:

AND--as if you needed any more reason--it's all for a great cause. The event has raised over 1 MILLION dollars for our efforts to combat hunger and create opportunity.
See you there!
Capital Food Fight

Chairman & Host

Jose Andres

Chef/Owner, ThinkFoodGroup and Host of PBS-TV's Made In Spain


Ted Leonsis

Majority Owner of the Washington Capitals


Anthony Bourdain

Author and Host of Travel Channel's No Reservations

Honorary Co-Chairs

Sen. John Kerry

Sen. Frank Lautenberg

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson

Rep. James McGovern

Battling Chefs

Mike Isabella

Michael Mina

Tracy O'Brady

Barton Seaver

Bryan Voltaggio


Ted Allen

Host of Food Networks's Chopped

Eric Ripert

Executive Chef, Le Bernardin

Carla Hall

Top Chef Finalist and Owner of Alchemy Caterers

Wednesday, November 11 @ 6:00pm
Ronald Reagan Building
Pennsylvania Avenue & 14th Street NW,
Washington, DC 20004

Friday, October 2, 2009

This Month's Cause: Hunger

First off, my standard disclaimer (that is, it is standard for me to start with a disclaimer, not that I have a standard disclaimer): Hunger is a HUGE issue.  I will not even attempt to address all of the facets of hunger this month.  Hopefully, in future months I will be able to return to this issue and look at it from additional perspectives.

On the very very micro level, there is the issue of an individual's ability to access (healthy) food, the barriers to it, and the effects of hunger.

On the less micro, but still pretty micro level, are issues of food supply.

On the local policy level, there is the question of what communities and governments can do to alleviate hunger.

On the national level, there are policy questions involving federal benefits, agriculture subsidies, international trade... There are national organizations working to increase awareness of hunger issues and to support local organizations that are working on the ground level.

And on the global level, there are issues of poverty and food supply well beyond the scope of the individual and community here at home.

This month, we will look at hunger no more broadly than locally.  I will highlight some organizations that are doing great things here in DC, and perhaps some local organizations in other cities.  (Do you have a favorite? Leave a note in the comments, or send me an email!)  I'll talk about some of the policy options that I know about and learn about over the course of this month.  And we'll try to have a contest.

Hunger is, of course, related to poverty.  So there may be some facts and figures about poverty thrown about this month, even though the broader issue of poverty is not our cause of the month. 

And now, a few quick notes to introduce you more to the issue of hunger, especially here in DC.* 
  • There is generally a correlation between high-poverty urban areas and lack of supermarkets.  In DC, there are only 3 supermarkets "East of the River" in the quarter of the city with the highest poverty density.
  • Lack of access to healthy food increases medical risks such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.  
  • When a student is hungry, it is harder for her to concentrate in school, so she will do poorly in school and might also have behavior problems.  (I can vouch for this one.  When I've gone to work while fasting, my concentration is totally shot, I whine, and it is only my adult self-control that keeps me from going completely off my rocker.)
More to come.

* You will note that these are all assertions and assumptions without citations.  I need to be ready to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot in less than 2 hours, so I'm feeling particularly lazy.  You'll note that this is a trend of mine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Wow, remind me not to make any commitments for a while!  I thought that I'd said I would announce this month's theme sometime today, not specifically this morning.  And now I have a headache, and still haven't chosen between global health (about which I know very little, but would allow me to highlight the great work of Doctors Without Borders, and would be timely given the tragedy of yesterday's earthquake/tsunami) and local hunger issues (about which I know more, and would be timely given the impending launch of a DC Food for All blog sometime this month). 

I think the headache is related to too many days in a row of staying up Way Too Late (an occupational hazard of unemployment) but still getting up at a reasonable time, so please please forgive me for not making the decision right now.  I will sleep on it and post tomorrow.