Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC
50.2 million Americans live in food insecure households, 33 million adults and 17.2 million children. Feeding America goes on to report that 7.8 percent of seniors living alone were also food insecure. Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas all report more than 17% of their households facing food insecurity. Washington, DC checks in at 12.9%. Least affected by this challenge is North Dakota that reports only 6.7 percent of households living with food insecurity.
I’ve been fortunate my entire life not to have to worry about where my next meal would come from, but as you can see above, many people in this rich country are not so fortunate.
One of the most impressive models for helping feed those in need is DC Central Kitchen. Although I had been aware of this organization for several years, it wasn’t until July 27th of last year when I gave $10 to their founder, Robert Egger, that I started to realize how amazing this organization really is. Check out what Robert did with the $10! It will blow you away.
Two weeks ago history was made – at least for DC Central Kitchen. At the DC Convention Center the largest specialty food and beverage show in North America was wrapping up. Thousands of exhibitors filled the exhibition hall with their mouth-watering offerings. From Theo Chocolate’s organic, Fair Trade-certified Madagascar sourced chocolate to melt in our mouth Spanish Serrano ham from Fermin, if you like food, welcome to heaven! When the last attendees get ushered out and booths begin to tear down their displays, there would still be hundreds of thousands of pounds of perfectly good food and beverage products on the show floor. For a variety of reasons, it’s often difficult for these companies to ship the food back to their warehouse so they simply leave it behind.
That’s where DC Central Kitchen stepped in and seized and opportunity by working out an arrangement where they would pick up unwanted food and turn it into meals for the thousands of households in the DC area who depend on them for nourishment.
They assembled a small benevolent army of about 150 people made up of employees of the kitchen and volunteers like myself. Our mission was to comb the aisles collecting food that the exhibitors had designated for donation.
It’s a bit of a race against the clock. Perishable foods must be removed within two hours and then we only had about another six hours to collect the rest of the food and transport it across the titanic show floor while dodging forklifts and workers removing miles of carpet from beneath our feet. Then we had to load all the food onto pallets and wrap them in cellophane so that they could be loaded onto waiting trucks. To give you an idea of the chaos, keep in mind that the show floor is 700,000 square feet and has a wingspan that covers six city blocks! So making a run from one side to the other was no easy task.
One funny moment was when I was looking for some large boxes and heard a gentleman with a distinct Spanish accent saying, “Look at that – I turned a hexagon box into a rectangular one!”
“I know this guy,” I thought.
He handed me a box and then I realized I did know him – well not personally, but it was famed chef and restaurateur José Andrés! I’ve dined in his restaurants, watched him on TV and even prepared tapas from his cookbook but I had no idea of his newest talent of transforming unusable boxes into perfect containers for our collection. There was no time to be “star-struck” though and I grabbed the boxes and headed off to collect more food.
When the last pallet was wrapped we had collected over 150,000 pounds of food – the largest single food donation that Robert’s organization has ever received! DC Central Kitchen shared the historic donation with DC Food Bank and other community organizations that help provide meals to area residents in need.
Although this was an amazing day for DC Central Kitchen, this was not a typical day and the organization needs your support. They are much more than a kitchen too – they provide training and jobs for the communities unemployed and homeless. Click here to find out how you can volunteer or support them financially.