HISTORY AND GROWTH
Started in 1974, Bread for the City is a front line agency serving Washington’s poor. The agency began as two organizations; Zacchaeus Free Clinic began in 1974 as a volunteer-run free medical clinic, and Bread for the City was created in 1976 by a coalition of downtown churches to feed and clothe the poor. The two entities merged in 1995. Today, we operate two Centers in the District of Columbia and provide direct services to low-income residents of Washington, DC. All of our services are free. Our mission is to provide comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services to low-income Washington, DC residents in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.
Bread for the City and Zacchaeus Free Clinic were founded in the mid-1970s out of faith-based concerns for the homeless, the hungry and the poor of Washington, DC. Zacchaeus was an outgrowth of the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), at that time a group of activist ministries working to ensure that every DC resident had access to food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Bread for the City was a joint project of the “Emmaus Fellowship,” five neighboring churches (First Baptist, Foundry United Methodist, Luther Place Memorial, Metropolitan A.M.E., and National City Christian) responding to the Biblical injunction to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
The 1980’s and 1990’s
Bread for the City experienced dramatic growth during the 1980’s, as the demand for services continued to rise. The number of people served each month grew from less than 1,000 to more than 3,000. To meet the growing need, BFC opened satellite sites throughout Northwest DC. In 1991, BFC opened its first satellite site in Southeast DC, distributing food and clothing from a loaned church basement. Services grew to include health and nutrition classes, counseling, and referral services.
2000 to the Present
With a six-year record of success in Shaw and a growing demand for services, BFC launched a capital campaign to replicate its model east of the Anacostia River. Construction of the new Southeast Center began in 2001, and on its first day of operation in October 2002, staff distributed enough groceries to feed more than 3,000.
Dedicated to meeting the comprehensive needs of those it serves, BFC made a commitment to regularly assess community needs and ensure that its service model was relevant to address said needs. In this vein, BFC established its Representative Payee Program in 2002 in contract with the DC Department of Mental Health. This remains the only program in the District of Columbia that offers financial management services to residents living with mental illness and subsisting on a Supplemental Security Disability Income check. This critical program prevents vulnerable adults from mishandling their income and landing on the streets.