Congressional Hunger Caucus Visits DC Central Kitchen

April 22, 2015

By Rabbi Joseph H. Krakoff, Director of Philanthropic Outreach and Social Impact, The Bottle Crew

Representatives Lynn Jenkins (left) and Jim McGovern (center) visit DC Central Kitchen. Courtesy: Rabbi Joseph Krakoff/The Bottle Crew.

Representatives Lynn Jenkins (left) and Jim McGovern (center) visit DC Central Kitchen. Courtesy: Rabbi Joseph Krakoff/The Bottle Crew.

Under the inspiring bi-partisan leadership of Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R- KS) and Congressman Jim McGovern (D- MA), the Congressional Hunger Caucus has been reactivated and revitalized.  Meeting at the DC Central Kitchen on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, these two Congress members along with Joel Jacob, CEO of The Bottle Crew and Josh Protas, Director of Government Affairs for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and me were greeted by DC Central Kitchen’s CEO Michael F. Curtin, Jr. and Andy Finke, Chief Operating Officer.

For the next 90 minutes we learned all about the great work the DC Central Kitchen is doing to combat hunger in the metro area.  Celebrating 25 years of proven solutions, the DC Central Kitchen currently serves 11,350 meals daily to local non-profits and low income schools.  But they are dedicated not only to meal distribution but are also actively involved in job training and job placement.  In fact, DC Central Kitchen boasts 96 graduates from their culinary job training program in 2014 alone.  Furthermore, they have created long-term farm partnerships and are devoted to building lasting solutions to the interconnected problems of poverty, hunger and homelessness while fighting for food justice.  While we were touring, we had the opportunity to help prepare one of the meals by learning how to properly cut zucchini- who knew you are never supposed to lift the knife off the cutting board?  We also encountered several groups of volunteers and met a woman who was previously homeless but has now become one of the trainers.

Congressman McGovern (left) and Congresswoman Jenkins (right) help prepare meals at DCCK. Courtesy: Rabbi Joseph Krakoff/The Bottle Crew.

Congressman McGovern (left) and Congresswoman Jenkins (right) help prepare meals at DCCK. Courtesy: Rabbi Joseph Krakoff/The Bottle Crew.

This meaningful and memorable Congressional visit fit just perfectly with the goals and specific functions of the Congressional Hunger Caucus which include: a) bringing awareness to national/international hunger and food insecurity issues; b) serving as a forum for Congressional members and their staffs to receive information through briefings, hearings and meetings about hunger/food insecurity issues; c)creating a coalition of Congressional members to support legislative initiatives and funding requests that help address hunger/food insecurity; d)acting as a vehicle for local, state and national hunger non-profits to communicate to Congress and advocate about hunger/food insecurity issues; e) enhancing public/private partnerships to support hunger/food insecurity initiatives; and f)developing a forum for academic discussion of long-term solutions to hunger/food insecurity issues.

Both Congresswoman Jenkins and Congressman McGovern are deeply committed to the success of the Caucus and are currently working to encourage the participation of additional Congress members in the Caucus.  “Hunger doesn’t discriminate,” said Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. “This isn’t just an urban problem, or a rural problem. This is a problem that spans generations from children to senior citizens. We need to do more and we can do more. It was a privilege to join the volunteers and staff at the DC Central Kitchen to officially launch the House Hunger Caucus. I’m proud to join with Congressman McGovern to re-establish the conversation and together help find sensible, bipartisan solutions to combat hunger.”

“Hunger touches every Member of Congress – there is not a congressional district that is hunger free,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “One of the biggest strengths of the House Hunger Caucus is that it is bipartisan. Republican or Democrat, it is a way for Members to come together to work to end hunger.  I am happy to join with Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins to officially re-launch the Hunger Caucus and can’t think of a better place to celebrate the occasion than at the DC Central Kitchen.”

Joel Jacob, a well respected business leader and a past president of MAZON, feels particularly honored to be part of this evolving initiative and is looking forward to working with Rep. Jenkins and Rep. McGovern in ultimately uniting business leaders, elected officials and faith leaders in making a profound impact in the realm of food insecurity.  Many additional programs and seminars are currently in the process of being developed and scheduled.