DC Central Kitchen
About a year and a half later, I advised an Alternative Breaks trip to Washington DC. Alternative Breaks is a student run organization which provides students with opportunities to focus on a specific social issue, such as homelessness, food security, animal rights, etc. over the course of the school year. The program culminates in a week long volunteer trip to a new community, where the students immerse themselves in the social issue in order to gain perspective that they can home and better address the social issue in their community. During our stay in Washington DC, we had the opportunity to work a morning shift at DCCK.
“I just loved their approach to addressing societal problems in a one stop shop sort of fashion. All at the same time they are providing folks with professional training opportunities, healthy food for members of the community, paying farmers fair prices, providing volunteer opportunities, and much more!“
I didn’t know when I would return to DCCK, however I knew I was eager to do so at some point in the future. I just loved their approach to addressing societal problems in a one stop shop sort of fashion. All at the same time they are providing folks with professional training opportunities, healthy food for members of the community, paying farmers fair prices, providing volunteer opportunities, and much more! While the organization is not perfect, it sure has survived the test of time and is currently in its 31st year of existence, including support and volunteerism by a variety of celebrities and politicians such as Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama.
Our first official stop on the Bean Trail took us to the nation’s capital where we planned to visit our friends Hannah and Blake. Fun fact, Hannah is the friend who introduced the two of us! So basically without her, we never would have met. Since we were in DC for a few days, we decided it would be fun to spend a morning shift at DCCK. So we did just that, thanks to Alex and Jess, who fit us into the full volunteer schedule.
We were immediately greeted with a smile and a warm gesture to join the other volunteers. We literally got there just in time, as half the group of 34 volunteers had already been assigned tasks. They immediately selected me out of the bunch along with a handful of international students from Auburn University who happened to be on an Alternative Breaks trip. We were given brooms and mops and told to clean the hallways. It was funny, because I had spent all morning preparing to chop vegetables and show off my knife skills. That’s the life of a volunteer though, you never know where you will be needed! All you know is that you are needed and hope that your contribution will help the organization reach its goals.
Just before then I was eyeing two huge batches of BBQ baked beans, which I almost asked the fellow if I could take a turn at stirring them. Minutes later the head dishwasher, a country boy from around Greensboro, North Carolina, directed me on how to clean dishes the DCCK way. I asked him how long he had been working there, and responded with a proud 18 years. We quickly returned to the dishes and tackled them as they piled up.
Just before we left, we were able to catch a few minutes with Jess, the volunteer coordinator specialist, at DCCK. She invited us into the small conference room, and was eager to answer any questions we had for her. We were impressed with her openness and willingness to share intimate stories from her past. She began the interview with a summary about DCCK’s founder, David Eggers, and the early days of the organization. She quickly dived into her personal history and how she got to where she is today. Jess is the prime example of how effective programs can truly make an impact on people and provide them with a new direction to follow. While Jess has encountered a number of trials and tribulations, her unrelenting determination to achieve what she sets her mind to is admirable. Following our interview, Jess sent us home with a special gift. It was a copy of Alexander Justice Moore’s book, “The Food Fighters: DC Central Kitchen’s First Twenty-Five Years on the Front Lines of Hunger and Poverty”. We are truly thankful to everyone at DCCK for the opportunity to work alongside their team and the other volunteers. We’re excited to return and encourage each and every one of you to seek out opportunities similar to the one we had at DCCK.