by Maab Yasin

The amount of blessings that came out of this trip are too many to count and they have been stitched together to form a permanent smile across my heart. The DC Central Kitchens crew probably has the highest concentration of humble, genuine, supportive, down-to-earth, honest and all around beautiful people in one organization I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. My branch out team was composed of a refreshingly dynamic group of passionate, caring and energetic people who made the trip even more meaningful than I thought it would be.

This trip confirmed all the notions Sociology has taught me to deconstruct and see straight through. And indeed, all the stereotypes and stigmas attached to previously incarcerated individuals are more than bogus. Their culinary job training program allows for previously incarcerated individuals to receive culinary degrees and work in their kitchens to earn a living wage on top of extra benefits. These individuals are 96% less likely to engage in reoffending.

I was given me more tangible proof of the systematic disadvantage that plagues various aspects of society and just how complicated yet simultaneously so simple it may be to begin eliminating. When Mike Curtin, the Chief Executive Officer, gave us a detailed account of DCCK’s history, I quickly became aware of the fact that I was in the presence of living heroes.

It all began with Robert Egger, the founder, who drove up to local restaurants and hotels in his van to collect food that would have been otherwise thrown away at the end of the day that he later distributed to those in need. As his efforts grew into a non-profit organization, restaurants and hotels stopped donating their leftover food because they finally realized how much food they were wasting and began making a change. That ripple effect is absolutely beautiful and incredibly powerful. DCCK then began to buy the ‘unsellable’ produce from local farms. All the so called unsellable produce were not rotten or otherwise inedible but simply did not fit the cosmetic standards that must be met to in order to be sold in stores. In case the revolution DCCK has started is not already clear, let me tell you about how all the executive team and employees went on a 7 day hunger strike in order to demand the respect and resources they deserve from the government. Just when we thought we would never see another Gandhi, right?

DCCK is beyond incredible and what I mentioned above does not even begin to do the organization any justice. Please do yourself a favor by getting acquainted with their website but first, a fair warning: prepare to have your mind blown and to be inspired.

Speaking of inspiration, this trip introduced me to some members of an organization on campus called Oxfam that focuses on the issue of hunger in Williamsburg and the Lutheran Students Association. I was in the process of planning a Fast-a-thon event for Islam Awareness Week and knew it was fate that we met. Students on campus were invited to fast (refrain from food and drink) from sunrise to sunset to get a taste of what hunger is truly like and join the Muslim Students Association for dinner to break their fast at the end of the day. Oxfam and Stop Hunger Now gave presentations on hunger in the Williamsburg community and internationally in Syria in addition to MSA giving background on the importance of fasting in Islam. For each person who pledged to fast, the Lutheran Students Association graciously volunteered to donate $2 to Syrian relief and with over 140 participants and extra donations, over $500 was made and donated to Syria. Huge thank you to my branch out team for their support and for really making this event a success. It was a great combination of spiritual and secular organizations coming together to fight against the same cause in the name of service and understanding.