Blog For The City

Day of Service in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bread for the City hosted 60 volunteers on Monday’s Day of Service in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We welcomed volunteers from Blank Rome, Skadden Arps and Wiley Rein, as well as other community members at our centers in NW and SE, DC.

Living up to the purpose of the day, the volunteers worked hard to sort and process three pallets of fresh produce, including onions, potatoes, and carrots, into family-sized servings that Bread will distribute to clients through our two food pantries this week.

Volunteers also made a significant contribution in our clothing program by helping to organize the shopping area and storage room (a much needed task after the holiday season!) and to sort many bags of donations to ensure the program is well-stocked with seasonal items for these cold winter months.

At Bread for the City, volunteers play a very real and important role in helping us to accomplish our mission. We thank those who served on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and all of our other volunteers for all they contribute!

MLK Day volunteersMLK Day volunteers 2 MLK Day volunteers 3MLK Day volunteers 1






















Holistic Care for our Clients

Here at Bread for the City we describe ourselves as providing holistic care. This means comprehensive wrap-around services that help individuals achieve and maintain stability across many areas of their lives.

YogaHaving difficulty figuring out how to apply for food stamps? Stop by Social Services – we’ll go over the application with you and make sure your family gets groceries from our food pantry & garden. Need legal help to apply for child support? Legal intakes are every Monday afternoon. Want a medical home where you can care for your physical and mental health? Become a patient with our medical clinic and go to a free yoga class while you’re here!

We are serious about working to meet the complex needs of the community. We are invested in helping to create an environment that lets clients know they are respected and have the right to dignity – both inside and outside of our buildings’ walls. How though, do you ensure that someone feels dignified when they’re trapped in a system that often strips them of their humanity? There is little respect in being turned away from emergency shelter again because all available spaces are at capacity, or in having your EBT (food stamps) card be empty when the Department of Human Services (DHS) terminates your benefits without proper notice.Heather

Looking from the outside in, it can be difficult to understand the way that poverty keeps people from moving forward. As a caseworker I hear stories every day that demonstrate just how difficult and oppressive it is to be poor in Washington, DC. The circumstances that trap folks at the bottom of the class pyramid are complex, interwoven, and often completely outside of any one individual’s control. There are many studies (including this one) that show the high price of being poor. It can be hard though, to translate numbers to personal experience – so I’d like to introduce you to a few of the people that I have met and their stories.

Thomas is the single parent and primary guardian of a severely disabled child. Thomas wanted to stay in DC where he would be close to family that could provide childcare and emotional support – but his income made it impossible to find affordable housing. We’ve highlighted before that market rate rent is largely outside the affordable range for our clients. Our Housing Access Program helps people like Thomas, get on long term wait-lists for subsidized housing programs-and since starting in 2010, over 50 people they assisted in the process have obtained housing in affordable units. However, as these wait-lists all take many, many years, it is not an immediate solution and Thomas had to turn to already overcrowded family for support.

Through our Short-Term Case Management program, I was able to help Thomas identify the public benefits he could apply for, as well as aide him with the DC Public School enrollment process for his child. Even with our assistance, Thomas ran into several snags along the way – for example, it took us weeks to secure all necessary application proofs for DHS – and for that entire time their family was without any income or medical insurance coverage.

Many of our clients take regular medication that allows them to maintain their health stability – and without access to affordable health care they can fall into a crisis. Our medical clinic provides free care to anyone in need – and for Thomas they were able to provide an important bridge while he was without insurance.

Mary is in her 80s and lives in an apartment by herself. She doesn’t have many family members nearby and came into our legal clinic when she got a mailed notice she didn’t understand. The legal team quickly realized that Mary was not receiving all of the public benefits she was entitled to and linked her with me for help completing an application for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program. This is a supplemental program available to low income Medicare beneficiaries in the District to cover their monthly Medicare premiums and co-pays.

Donald at AMCQMB requires applicants to provide various documents to prove eligibility and access benefits. Like many older people, Mary’s monthly income comes from a few different places – Social Security, pensions, veteran’s benefits, etc. As a result, it can be difficult to get all the proofs you need to show that you qualify. We spent a lot of time helping Mary track down her income statements so she could apply for QMB. We were happy to help Mary and she was glad to have the support – but not everyone has someone to help them navigate these complex scenarios. That’s why the comprehensive care that Bread for the City provides to the under-served residents of DC is so important. That’s also why it is important that our donors continue to support our efforts. One client at a time, we change lives for the better.


Bread for the City PIcnic



Bread’s Fall Festival

The folks in the Participatory Action Research Project thought it would be a great idea to survey our clients to find out what changes they wanted to see at Bread for the City’s SE and NW centers.

Out of that came a Fall Festival, which was designed to showcase the programs that were started as a result of the client surveys. Computer classes, crochet classes, a wellness space, the expansion of the SE center, and several other areas were showcased during the festival.

Fall festivalThere was free food, jewelry making, bingo, and lots of games for the children. It turned out to be a wonderful event for the community!

Catch a glimpse of the action here! Fall festival 2

Race Matters

A couple of weeks ago, a number of the Bread for the City staffers met up at Freedom Plaza to participate in the rally to end police brutality against black men. After some thought, I gave the staff permission to join the rally under the Bread for the City banner, rather than insisting that they participate as mere private citizens.

I had initially hesitated to give my permission for them to walk as Bread employees, not because I didn’t like the cause or because I was worried about alienating some donors, which it very well might. No, I hesitated because I fear that the idea of marching regarding police brutality is too narrow of a message. Even one life of an unarmed citizen lost at the hands of the very people paid to protect us is tragic, but of course we know these tragedies have been both numerous and irreversible.

Protest photoI also believe they are really just horrific symptoms of the systemically brutal socio-economic oppression experienced by people of color in Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and yes even in the former chocolate city, Washington, DC.

I know we Americans don’t like talking about race. It is uncomfortable territory. As a black man, I know all too well that it’s dangerous. As we’ve seen with racial profiling of people like Forest Whitaker, there is an undeniable racial bias, often implicit, that doesn’t care if you’re successful or “respectable.” With all the privileges of being the CEO of a major non-profit, I have felt the sting of the kind of implicit bias that could lead a woman walking on the same block with me at night, a person seeing me driving through the predominantly white neighborhood I live in, or even a police officer sworn to protect my rights as a citizen, to perceive me as a threat.

But again, I believe that the greater cost of this racial bias, or what many would call this kind of racism, is that it is also at play in all of the systems in our racialized communities, states and country.

The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice, have created an opportunity for America to talk about how race continues to be the determining factor not only who lives or dies when confronted by police on the streets, but just as often who is hired or fired, who is poor or not, who is sentenced to prison or not, can afford to live in gentrifying cities like DC or not, and even which 1st grader is going to be suspended or not. The brutal truth behind just about every socio-economic indicator is that people of color fare far worse than white people.

rally against police brutality 4Racism is built in to the fabric of our lives. It limits our options and shapes our choices. The white men who built the institutions and policies that our country was founded on designed them in a way that would benefit them – not always intentionally but sometimes explicitly.

Here at Bread, we know that we’re an institution shaped by the legacy of racism. We also believe that we can intentionally embody racial equity — whether that’s providing culturally-relevant services to everyone that walks through our door, being a good employer to our diverse staff, or advocating for policies to dismantle racist systems.

I hope that by adding my voice to this vital national conversation, we can continue to move the needle on racial equity when it comes to policing, as well as all of the other systems affecting the lives of black folks. I know that now that I’ve started to share my story, I don’t plan to stop until race isn’t a determining factor for health, educational attainment, or career.

Will you join me?

At the Service to Justice Conference on January 30-31st, Bread for the City staff, clients and funders, will lead a discussion on the importance of anti-racist organizing at non-profit organizations. We would love to have our donors and volunteers, skeptics and supporters in the audience. Register here. I hope to see you there.

Another win for Community Organizing!

In early 2013, Bread for the City’s Taylor Healy and I worked with a group of (very awesome) seniors at Victory Square Senior Apartments to get them a bus stop in front of their building. We organized them, helped them draft testimony and they kicked butt and successfully changed their access to a major transportation system (woot woot for systemic change! See the blog post here.).

We worked with those same seniors to do some deeper training around how to self-organize and even took three of them to a WIN training to get EVEN MORE tools. They were incredibly engaged and eager to learn more about how to fight for themselves.

VS-clients-in-front-of-DC-Council-520x388This past November, residents from Mayfair (another housing complex in the Kenilworth neighborhood of DC) and an organizer/colleague from DCPNI, approached us about some changes that WMATA wanted to make to their bus route. Essentially, WMATA wanted to end bus service to the ONLY grocery store in the neighborhood (dumb!), and hadn’t really kept the community at large in the loop about the changes.

Once residents found out, they wanted to do something. We talked to our Victory Square residents, had a couple of strategy sessions with stakeholders and leaders from each of the buildings in Kenilworth, DCPNI and the ANC, so that we could get a plan together. The residents organized a meeting with WMATA on November 13th where they turned out (after one week of work!) OVER 40 community members to a meeting where they told Metro their demands.

Besides making flyers (shout-out to Andrew Lomax!), the professional organizers/lawyers took a back seat, and the residents really made sure that their voices were heard and their stories came through. They used the training that they’d received, and some tips from the pre-meetings, and they ROCKED it!

Last week, WMATA’s top dog of bus planning sent a letter saying that they are recommending to the Board of Directors that none of the scheduled changes take place at this time. They heard the community loud and clear, and the community WON!

community organizingTHIS is what happens when you equip people with the tools and knowledge necessary to affect change for themselves and their communities. This wasn’t a bunch of paid organizers and lawyers making this happen, but it absolutely was a beautiful manifestation of our investments in these residents and this community.

Changing a transportation system is HARD WORK–almost impossible–and in Kenilworth, they’ve kicked butt TWICE! WMATA is the largest single employer outside of the government in this area–a multi-billion dollar business–and it takes guts to go up against big money and fight.

I’m just overwhelmed with pride right now, and I’m so thankful to end 2014 on this note! THIS is the sort of rock-star stuff the Community Lawyering project does. Whoohoo!

*Aja’s work is made possible in part through private funds awarded by the DC Bar Foundation

You Rock My Socks


Dear Donors,

Over the past twelve months you have uplifted Bread for the City. You’ve donated, you’ve served, you’ve championed – you’ve cared.

I once had a client thank me for saying hello to her as I passed her on my way to the office. This really surprised me. Who gets thanked for saying hi? The client then continued that it felt good to know that someone not only saw her but cared enough to wish her a good day.

That is how the staff and clients of Bread for the City feel every time you give of your time and of your treasure. You noticed us. You didn’t look away. You saw how hard our clients struggled and how hard our staff and volunteers worked, and you were moved to act. That’s rare to find. Thank you.

Bread for the City only exists because of you, so I find myself struggling to find the right words to convey to you how grateful I am for what you make possible each day. So, I’ll simply say this: you rock my socks.

Here’s to you,

Kristin Valentine Foti
Chief Development Officer

P.S. Would I be a proper fundraiser if I didn’t share a donation page link somewhere in this message? You still have time for a 2014 tax-deductible donation, and to have it DOUBLED!


We’re almost out of time…Donate Now!

We raised $31,577 on the first day of our $35,000 challenge. AMAZING!

With the match from The Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation and an anonymous donor, the total stands at $63,154. We’re SO close to getting our new truck, we can almost see the shiny new wheels!

Don't forget to giveWe have about 15 hours left to hit $64,330.53. Make a year-end gift of $70 right now, and you’ll be helping clients like Lejuan who couldn’t make ends meet after her employer went out of business. “I am so thankful to Bread for the City because at my lowest point, you all were there for me,” says Lejuan.

Give before midnight and your dollars will be MATCHED! Even better, give before midnight, and you’ll be ensuring that food can get to our clients’ tables.

Bread for the City relies on you to help families in crisis, so let’s end the year strong!

Make a year-end gift of $70 right now then challenge your friends to do the same. Tweet your support, and let’s get #KeepDCFed trending!

Make a secure online donation

48 hours to…DOUBLE your dollars!

A rapidly growing number of DC residents can’t afford food. Bread for the City witnesses this reality every day, as we serve more people than ever before. The only way that we can continue to do this is if we purchase a new delivery truck. We need your help!

The challenge: raise $64,330.53 before January 1st. 100% of your donation today will go to the purchase of a new truck (with a lift!) and one year of commercial insurance.

The incentive: The Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, along with a generous individual donor will match all contributions, dollar for dollar, up to $35,000!

Double your dollars

Here’s why we need a new truck:

• An increase in food prices and demand for our services means sourcing food from more places, so our trucks have to do more driving.
• On average, our food trucks are on the road 5-6 hours daily.
• Our trucks transport between 6,000-20,000 lbs. of food, clothing, and other donations weekly. That’s a lot of wear and tear!
• To keep food fresh for our clients, we make frequent pick-ups.

Make a year-end gift of $75 before the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, and your gift will be instantly doubled to $150!

Fresh food is essential for clients like Tina Johnson. “Turning to Bread for the City literally saved my life,” says Tina. “If it wasn’t for Bread, I would have no food. I have a son with autism and an active 16-year-old who eats a lot. Food stamps just don’t last that long. It’s a difficult cycle to live in.”

Give $75 today, and double your impact! THEN tweet about it using the hashtag #KeepDCfed!

Make a secure online donation

Two new sewing machines? Yes, please!

A few weeks ago, we blogged about our sewing classes here at Bread for the City.

At Bread, we recognize the need to enrich our clients’ lives beyond providing food, clothing and medical treatment. Every Tuesday at 10:30 AM a group of seamstresses (and seamsters) gathers at our NW center to share ideas and inspiration for everything needle-and-thread related. The classes have been growing in popularity and so there quickly came a need for more sewing machines.

One afternoon, shortly after that post was written, we were working in the development office when we were informed that two big boxes had arrived at the front desk for us. We are always excited (perhaps naively) when we get big, unexpected packages in the mail! We all gathered around as the packages were brought in and then there was an eruption of squeals. We couldn’t believe it…one of our regular volunteers had ordered and sent us TWO brand new sewing machines!

sewing machinesTo say that we were THRILLED is an under-statement. Our. Donors. ROCK! Kind and generous spirits abound.

We still do have a need for sewing machines, so if you have one that is in good working condition and not being used, please send it on over and we’ll put it to good use!

We say it often, but can one more time hurt? THANK YOU to all of you that support the work that we do at Bread for the City! Thank you for supporting your neighbors. Thank you for making our city a great one!

That was three times but who’s counting.

*Tim comes to us through a partnership with Community HealthCorps and the District of Columbia Primary Care Association.

Bread for the City’s Food Program Doing More and More to Fight Hunger

food pantry 1

Robert Samuels of The Washington Post drew attention to the District’s food crisis in a December 21 article entitled, “The District has more grocery stores. But a growing number of residents can’t afford food.”

We appreciate Mr. Samuels shedding light on the hunger crisis in the DC Area and what steps groups like Bread for the City and our partners at the Capital Area Food Bank are taking in response. Hunger in DC is at a crisis level, and all citizens should do what they are able to ensure that all of our neighbors have enough to eat.

We encourage you to read the article in its entirety while directing special attention to this fact:

“Facing tight budgets because of the rise in food costs, 16 percent of the area’s food banks have cut hours, and 13 percent have reduced the geographic areas they serve.”

The rising cost of food has impacted Bread for the City significantly, pushing us nearly $50,000 over our food budget in the first quarter of this fiscal year. Thankfully, our donor community — that’s you — stepped up in a big way on #GivingTuesday and helped us fill that gap. Thank you!

Your continued support has also allowed us to do more while other pantries are forced to do less. In the past few years, Bread for the City’s food pantry has:

You have helped us come so far, but as Mr. Samuels makes clear, the need remains. Please give to Bread for the City today so that we can remain on the front lines fighting hunger in the District of Columbia.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You make our mission possible.

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