Correction to This Article
A May 2 Metro article about the D.C. Central Kitchen's decision to stop delivering meals at homeless shelters misidentified the chief of program operations for the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness. He is Cornelle Chappelle, not Mike Ferrell. Ferrell is the executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless.

D.C. Group Stops Meals At Homeless Shelters

By Theola S. Labbe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

D.C. Central Kitchen did not deliver 2,300 meals to eight homeless programs yesterday and is refusing to resume the service until the city awards a new contract and makes changes in how it serves food to the homeless.

Robert Egger, founder and president of D.C. Central Kitchen, said yesterday that the nonprofit group had served meals for 17 years but could not continue to operate as the main provider of meals for the city's homeless without more city funding.

"We can't do this independently," Egger said. He said the growth in the homeless population over the years has put a larger burden on the group and its homeless meal program, which costs $1.6 million annually and is funded almost entirely through private donations.

The city was to announce a contract for the meal service April 15, but the process got delayed, said Mike Ferrell, chief of program operations for the Community Partnership for the Homelessness, the nonprofit group that manages the city's homeless programs. Ferrell said the contract will be awarded no later than May 15.

D.C. Central Kitchen had been receiving $50,000 monthly from the city since January for meals, but Egger said he was not informed about any funding in May, and without definite word from the city, the group suspended service.

In addition, Egger said the program is increasingly concerned about the nutritional value of the meals served to shelter residents with specific health concerns -- people with diabetes and senior citizens, for example.

"We're trying to elevate it from being food for the poor and making it about healthy nutrition for our neighbors and fellow citizens," he said.

Although D.C. Central Kitchen did not deliver to the shelters, it did make its regular runs to after-school and seniors programs yesterday.

Among the shelters that did not receive D.C. Central Kitchen meals yesterday were the Emery and New York Avenue men's shelters in Northeast; La Casa in Northwest, a bilingual shelter; the shelters on the campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast and at the Franklin School in Northwest; and two women's shelters in Northwest, the John L. Young Shelter and Open Door. Those shelters made other arrangements to provide meals.

The shelter most affected was the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Northwest, which usually receives about 750 meals, Ferrell said. That shelter, which is not run by the city but is operated by shelter residents, is one of several programs at the Federal City Shelter at Second and D streets NW. The D.C. Central Kitchen program is in the same space.

Ferrell and other officials with the Community Partnership were headed to the supermarket Monday evening to buy soup and sandwich fixings for shelter residents.

"We won't allow homeless people not to be fed," Ferrell said. He said officials were working to have meal service resume as soon as possible.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company