A nonprofit that has provided meals for homeless people in the District for three decades has lost part of its government contract to another vendor and is questioning the award process.
D.C. Central Kitchen, founded in 1989, provides 3 million meals for homeless shelters, schools and nonprofits each year, according to its website. The organization lost part of its contract — funded by the D.C. Department of Human Services through the nonprofit Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness — to Henry’s Soul Cafe, a caterer with locations on U Street and in Prince George’s County.
Washington City Paper first reported the contract changes.
In a statement, D.C. Central Kitchen chief executive Mike Curtin Jr. said the organization has worked for 30 years to provide healthy meals to residents of the city’s shelters.
“While the upheaval around our shelter food service contract is extremely challenging for our organization, we are far more concerned about how this contracting process failed to uphold our community’s values around transparency, health, sustainability, and creating good jobs for District residents,” the statement said. “We will persevere, as always, and hope this unfortunate outcome will inspire much-needed and long-overdue progress in our city’s approach to shelter nutrition programs.”
In a statement, D.C. Department of Human Services spokeswoman Dora Taylor-Lowe called the November selection of food vendors “an open, competitive process.” The agency didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday beyond the statement.
D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), who chairs the Committee on Human Services, declined to comment, as did Community Partnership.
D.C. Central Kitchen chief development officer Alexander Moore said the change meant the nonprofit’s contract shrank from about $1.8 million to $1 million a year. It had delivered up to 2,500 meals to 10 shelters each day under the contract but now delivers 800 meals to five shelters.
Moore said D.C. Central Kitchen underbid Henry’s — requesting reimbursement of $3.50 for a supper, for example, while Henry’s gets $5.18. Moore speculated that Henry’s may have won the contract because it is a certified business enterprise — a local business that receives preference in procurement.
“This was done in the least responsible, least transparent way possible,” he said. “There’s no reason to disadvantage us against a for-profit company. . . . We’ve created jobs and are keeping money right here.”
Henry’s Soul Cafe didn’t respond to requests for comment.