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A charity creates a guide to how to get produce into ‘food deserts’ (+video)

D.C. Central Kitchen offers a manual for other nonprofit groups that gives tips on staffing, budgets, marketing, and how to building partnerships.

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    With more incarcerations than nearly anywhere else in the US, crime is a serious problem in Washington -- and finding a job after prison is a struggle. DC Central Kitchen is helping some of those ex-offenders by teaching them how to cook, hoping those 'knife skills' will turn into 'life skills'.
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The initial success of D.C. Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners program, which brings produce to neighborhood markets in Washington, D.C., neighborhoods that lack grocery stores, encouraged the nonprofit’s leaders to more than double the program’s size.

It also prompted a somewhat unusual side project: writing a manual to help nonprofits in other cities replicate and adapt the program.

Released in February, the guidebook, "Turning the Corner: the Inside Guide to Fighting Food Deserts," is free.

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"It’s not meant to be a promotional piece, it’s meant to be the start of a conversation with groups around the country," said Alexander Moore, chief development officer at D.C. Central Kitchen.

Through Healthy Corners, D.C. Central Kitchen sells small amounts of produce, homemade snacks, and pre-packaged meals to neighborhood stores at discount prices. The stores then sell the products at affordable prices.

Nearly 70 stores participated in 2014, selling more than 65,000 pounds of food and grossing $59,130 in retail earnings for the charity. Based on the suggested retail markup, D.C. Central Kitchen estimates Healthy Corners generated $79,826 in revenue for participating stores that year.

The manual explains staffing requirements and budgets, offers marketing suggestions, and outlines every step, including building partnerships with store owners and providing them with refrigeration units.

It also explains what didn’t work and highlights the challenges other groups may face.

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"I hope it’s clear to the reader that while we want to share the successes of the program, we’re frank about what didn’t work," Mr. Moore said.

Rotem Ayalon, who works for the Canadian health and wellness group Québec en Forme, and who requested a copy of the report, likes the transparency.

"I appreciate all the details and also the frankness, such as how much it cost them to start up," Ms. Ayalon said.

Four other nonprofit and government groups have requested the manual, said Erica Teti-Zilinskas, associate communications director at D.C. Central Kitchen, plus some companies and student organizations.

One is Food Shift, a nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., that is collaborating with other groups to support a program that brings produce to neighborhood stores. Dana Frasz, director of Food Shift, plans to cite the Healthy Corners guide in conversations with potential partners and investors.

"It’s really helpful to have a model that has already done this and is working," she said.

• To request a copy of the manual, contact D.C. Central Kitchen director of nutrition and community outreach Janell Walker at jwalker@dccentralkitchen.org.

This article originally appeared on the website of The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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