The “soup kitchen” concept is one that is usually top-of-mind when it comes to ideas around volunteerism and charity. Many of us have spent at least an hour of our lives volunteering at a soup kitchen –either through a school or community-sponsored event. Volunteering at soup kitchens, or with any type of service-oriented trade, can be an eye-opening experience for those of us standing on the “giving” side. In our society, service to those in need is an idea that continues to evolve. And even more so, there is a further progression taking place in the level or type of service that is being delivered.
Case in point: Washington, DC’s DC Central Kitchen. What started out as a basic soup kitchen has since developed into a viable enterprise. Not only does it serve to provide food to the city’s less-fortunate and homeless, but it aims to do several things including educating recipients about nutrition and the trade of food handling and service, as well as to provide quality meals to low-income neighborhood schools, corner stores, and even other local nonprofit organizations. It operates a culinary job-training program catering to about 80 trainees each year, and sources its supplies locally.
DC Central Kitchen was founded by Robert Egger, a former nightclub manager who set out to train homeless people in the District on how to cook, and eventually find employment stability in local food ventures. The story of Egger’s collective endeavor is told in a new book by Alexander Moore, The Food Fighters: DC Central Kitchen’s First 25 Years on the Front Lines of Hunger and Poverty. Moore, too, serves as DCCK’s Chief Development Officer.
Allison Aubrey and Dan Charles of NPR’s the salt recently engaged in an interesting conversation with both Egger and Moore, highlighting the evolution of DCCK into a truly inspiring and effective enterprise for DC. It provides great insights on how the DC Kitchen model benefit’s the Washington community, as well as organizations around the country. At the root of this innovation, as it is noted, will always be the evolution of charity –turning it into more than just a channel for “giving back,” but a conduit to building truly strong communities.
Listen to the conversation here.