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!


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.

Make a secure online donation

Our Annual Report: A Year of Growth!

With over 7,400 volunteer hours and $7,963,163 donated dollars, you’ve helped Bread for the City provide food, clothing, medical and dental care, legal assistance, and social services to more than 33,000 people this year.


Here’s the breakdown:

You fed 24,915 people this year!

Obama family volunteering

For forty years, our food pantry has served our city’s most vulnerable residents — senior citizens, people with disabilities, and families with children. We just didn’t have the capacity to feed everyone, so we focused our resources on what we believed to be the greatest need.

But times have changed, and more people need our help. Because of your incredible support, we expanded our food program this year! You helped us lift the final restriction on our food pantry to feed our city’s working poor and unemployed adults. Plus, our newest urban agriculture, City Orchard, celebrated its first full growing season by providing our clients with over 14,000 lbs. of fruit and vegetable bounty. Thank you for joining us in the fight against hunger!

George working at City OrchardHOMELESSNESS
You helped 296 people keep their homes!

With your support, our housing case managers and lawyers have been able to connect our city’s low-income residents with affordable housing, and help them keep their homes.

Around 7,750 people in DC are experiencing homelessness right now, and affordable housing has dwindled by more than half over the last decade. This year, our Housing Access Program saw around 40 people each week, who came to us for help identifying and applying for affordable units in buildings across the city. Housing is a fundamental part of creating stable families – thank you for working with us to address this inequity in our city.

You ensured access to healthcare for 2,886 people!

In the spring, we became a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike! This will allow us to expand our coverage of DC’s medically-vulnerable through increased patient reimbursements for our patients on public insurance plans.

We’ve already hired new providers and implemented services like behavioral health. With your support and with new funding streams like FQHC, we are able to sustainably support our growing clinic.

You helped our social workers provide compassionate care and resources through over 9,700 client visits.

With your help, Bread for the City social workers enabled clients to access public benefits, receive referrals to complementary service organizations, and aided them in addressing long-term problems like lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and substance abuse.

You provided 5,142 people with public benefits, eviction prevention, and safety from domestic violence.

Your support means that BFC clients with substandard housing can find clean, safe homes. It means that your neighbors’ involved in a custody dispute can resolve their problems so that their children receive the financial and emotional support to which they are entitled. And it’s no exaggeration to say that you helped save lives through our Domestic Violence Community Legal Services Project. Thank you!

Still, 108,732 people are living in poverty here in DC. People like Kiara, who came to Bread for the City as a homeless mother in search of housing, employment, and food for her two-year old son. “Some days I felt like I didn’t have a place in the world because I didn’t have a job or a place to live,” says Kiara.

With your help, our newly expanded Food Program ensured that Kiara and her son had enough to eat. Our caseworkers secured transitional housing for the young family. And our Pre-Employment Program prepared Kiara to join the workforce.

It paid off. Within weeks, Kiara secured an internship with the DC government and enrolled in her first semester of college. Today, Kiara and her son are thriving.

Bread for the City spent 2014 helping thousands of DC residents, just like Kiara, find stability. We couldn’t have done it without your support.

Thank you, and we’ll see you in 2015!Happy new year

Bread for the City’s CEO statement on Mayor Marion Barry

With the recent passing of “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry, Jr., the city of Washington, DC has lost not just an icon and leader, but a steadfast supporter of and fierce advocate for residents of Wards 7 and 8.

Mayor Barry, a civil rights activist from a small town in Mississippi, came to DC in 1965 at the age of 29 and made it his life’s mission to champion the poor, under-served and under-represented of the city. It is no coincidence that during my 19 years as CEO of Bread for the City, I sat before him and his fellow DC Council members countless times appealing for justice for this very same community.

Marion BarryAs Mr. Barry ascended the political ladder, he never abandoned the people who relied on him to have their voices heard and their needs met. He expanded economic opportunities, created jobs and steadfastly supported the influx of black-owned businesses into DC.

While I did not know Mayor Marion Barry personally, I know that he was a persuasive and astute politician who radiated charisma, and despite the scandals that somewhat tainted his career, earned a huge and loyal base of supporters.

One just has to look at the several impressive contributions made during his time in leadership, including leading the redevelopment of once dilapidated Union Station and managing the development of the Reeves Center, to know that Mayor Barry was committed to improving the city of Washington, DC. The city also owes Mayor Barry a debt of gratitude for helping to revitalize downtown Washington.

Ultimately, Mayor Marion Barry was important to me because he cared about the same causes that Bread for the City advocates for – ensuring that vulnerable DC residents have access to affordable housing, quality healthcare, nutritious food, and equal access to justice. For that, I will always be thankful for his decades of leadership.

May Mayor Marion Barry rest in comfort.