For 30 years, as a way to fight hunger and poverty in the nation’s capital, DC Central Kitchen has trained unemployed adults for culinary careers. About a year ago, the nonprofit decided to expand their efforts to help young people, ideally before they encountered any barriers to employment.
DC Central Kitchen launched DC Central Kitchen Cafe, a hands-on culinary training and career readiness program, where young adults ages 18 – 24 who have become disconnected from employment and education can learn culinary skills, build their confidence, and gain real-life work experience.
DC Central Kitchen Cafe opened in May 2019 at Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus, or THEARC, a hub that provides access to high-quality educational, health, cultural, recreation, and social service programs. Students join the program through a rolling admission process and work alongside cafe staff, many of whom are graduates of DC Central Kitchen’s traditional program. Seventeen young adults in the first cohort graduated in September 2019, many of whom are now employed and working in the hospitality industry.
Wells Fargo has donated more than $550,000 to DC Central Kitchen over the past 10 years, including $250,000 in funding to support the DC Central Kitchen Cafe located at THEARC. The funding was part of Where We Live, a five-year commitment of more than $1.6 billion in lending and philanthropy in Washington, D.C. Where We Live, a collaboration with local organizations, concentrates resources on the biggest needs identified by Washington, D.C., leaders: Affordable housing, small business growth, and job skills, with an emphasis on the district’s Wards 7 and 8. In October 2018, DC Central Kitchen was one of the first organizations to receive that philanthropic funding.
“DC Central Kitchen is one of the groups we invested in because we know that workforce development is central to creating economic opportunities in distressed communities in Washington,” said Anna Bard, Community Affairs manager for Wells Fargo and a board member for DC Central Kitchen. “At the time, the program was just being created, students had not been recruited yet, but now those students have shown up at this beautiful new space, they’ve gone through the kitchen work, they’ve had internships, and now they have job offers. So we feel that Where We Live is really coming to fruition, and we’re being able to see that investment come to life.”