Those of you who follow this blog know that we’re big fans of food, social innovation, and giving back to our community. A few weeks ago we were able to combine these passions by taking a team field trip to the DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) and learn about their innovative approach to philanthropy. You know, its not all work and no play around here.
Thanks to Brian MacNair and the team at DCCK, DC is a better place. Instead of ending up back in jail, people are ending up in behind the stove. But before if you think this is just a well-run soup kitchen? Think again.
DCCK is a non-profit that has implemented a highly innovative business model. In addition to serving food to members of DC’s homeless population (56,000 of them at the last count) and providing culinary job training, they also contract out catering services, bringing in revenue by operating the kitchens of local government offices and schools.
One of DCCK’s keys to success is keeping its food costs low. They accomplish this by sourcing fresh produce from local farms in Northern Virginia and Maryland – ingredients which are often surplus to the requirements of the high-end restaurants that these farms usually serve. Of course, a carrot that isn’t quite straight enough might be a problem if you’re Minibar but for DCCK it’s a cheap and highly nutritious solution.
Furthermore, DCCK keeps its costs low by leveraging volunteers who work side-by-side with employees. This gives them an incredible cost (and quality) advantage versus other catering providers in the area which, in turn allows them to provide their staff with good salary and benefit packages and return a profit that they can re-invest in their program. Did I mention that famous Restaurateur Jose Andres is Chair of their volunteer board? This is a high-end operation in all aspects.
The profitability of their business model (combined with the generosity and support of other community members) has allowed them to grow their programs both in and outside the DC area. For example, its Campus Kitchens project is now in 28 communities around the country, using recovered community food and local students to deliver food to people in need. DCCK continues to grow its reach and impact within DC and across the country, and we left feeling truly inspired by their work.
Thanks to Brian MacNair for the tour, and to our friend Jonathan Goldfuss at Think Food Group for the introduction.
About Carl Fudge
Carl is an engagement director with overall management responsibility for the various work streams involved in our consulting work.