In 2019, building on several years of work in providing donations to various non-profit organizations in the food sector, we were excited to formalize and amplify those efforts with the creation of a new and separate structure at Leanpath, the Leanpath 12.3 Initiative.
With a name that draws a parallel to Target 12.3 – the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal that calls for cutting global food loss and waste in half by 2030 – we created the Leanpath 12.3 Initiative with a specific purpose: to assist mission-aligned, resource-constrained nonprofits and educational institutions in advancing their work on food waste prevention.
Through the 12.3 Initiative we donate our food waste tracking technology, expertise and data to partners focused on creating meaningful food system change, supporting our values as a B Corporation and our vision of ensuring a sustainable future for all by eliminating global food waste.
One of our key 12.3 Initiative partners is DC Central Kitchen (DCCK), a truly iconic social enterprise with a powerful mission: utilizing food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.
DCCK has been driving positive impact for over 30 years, anchored by core values which revolve not only around the value of food but compassion for people and caring for community as well. Those values include the belief that hunger is a symptom of the deeper (systemic) problem of poverty, and that jobs have the transformative power to lift individuals to a new level. They include the idea that all individuals deserve the chance to participate in meaningful work and to contribute positively to their communities. And they recognize the need for a more equitable food system which provides dignity and economic opportunity for all individuals, along with the importance of minimizing waste.
DCCK fights hunger differently, with a systemic perspective, utilizing food as the key resource to activate all of these core values for the benefit of the DC community. Through its culinary training program, DCCK prepares individuals facing barriers to employment for careers in the foodservice sector – successfully helping over 1,700 individuals launch careers to date.
DCCK plays a strong role in advancing nutrition as well. Through its Healthy School Food Program, it sources food from more than thirty local farms and provides high-nutrition scratch-cooked meals for children at 16 schools. Going further, DCCK delivers fresh produce and healthy snacks in manageable quantities to more than 60 stores through its Healthy Corners initiative, providing needed supply in areas lacking supermarkets while also stimulating demand for these healthy items through affordable pricing.
DCCK also recovers more than 1 million pounds of food annually that would otherwise go to waste. Culinary graduates transform those valuable food resources into 5,000 meals each day that are distributed to more than 80 partner agencies in the Washington area.
We applaud these efforts, and our core values and philosophies at Leanpath are well-aligned with those of DCCK, including the ideas that “food connects everything” and “big challenges require strong collaboration.” We feel a strong parallel to DCCK’s systemic change efforts, including our focus on preventing the occurrence of food waste and changing behavior.
DCCK is now utilizing two Leanpath Trackers in its operations. The first Tracker, a Leanpath Basic, was installed last year in the DC Central Kitchen Café, which provides locally sourced sandwiches, salads and snacks to patrons while providing hands-on culinary training that prepares young adults for careers in foodservice. The Tracker helps support training themes regarding resource optimization and the importance of waste reduction to enhance operational profitability.
In 2020 we added a Leanpath 360 Tracker at DCCK’s Nutrition Lab where it supports waste reduction efforts in production operations for the Healthy School Food program.
To date, DCCK has tracked and measured roughly 1,400 individual food waste transactions, gaining insights from the associated analytics that are helping to reduce waste going forward while enhancing a food waste prevention mindset among their culinarians.
Amy Bachman, Director of Procurement and Sustainability at DCCK, pointed out that the partnership with Leanpath has allowed DCCK to put preventing food waste into action in its own operations. “DCCK has long been a leader in recovering food from other organizations, but until now had not internally tracked our own waste,” she noted. “As DCCK has grown as a social enterprise, this is an incredibly valuable tool for us to monitor our waste and teach our staff and students the value of preventing food waste.”
We are thrilled to play a small role in helping to support the phenomenal work of DC Central Kitchen as it creates so many positive social and environmental wins in the region – mitigating immediate hunger needs, addressing poverty through career development via culinary job training, advancing nutrition by providing healthy meals to school children and affordable fresh produce to corner stores, supporting the local economy by creating well-paid positions and sourcing from numerous local farms, and transforming food that would otherwise go to waste into thousands of nutritious meals daily.
We feel privileged to support the pivotal work of DCCK – which is a model for so many other social impact ventures across the country – and we look forward to our continued partnership and positive impact in 2021.
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