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A student at Next Step Public Charter School adds carrots to his salad. Melissa Tussing/MNS

WASHINGTON – D.C. Central Kitchen provides 4,500 meals each day for the hungry in Washington.

Hundreds of those meals go to two D.C. schools – one private, one public charter.

The students derive most of their food intake from these meals. It’s a chance for the nonprofit organization to give the students something fresh and local.

“If they get dinner, it’s not a good dinner,” said Joelle Johnson, local food procurement coordinator for D.C. Central Kitchen. “Or maybe they’re buying snacks from the corner store. Who knows where their food is coming from all the time?”

The Kitchen’s catering service, Fresh Start Catering, provides three meals a day for private Washington Jesuit Academy. During the summer, the catering company prepares just two meals a day. About 100 students attend WJA, said chef Allison Sosna.

Fresh Start also provides two meals a day – breakfast and lunch – for Next Step Public Charter School. These meals are continuing through the summer.

Some of the ingredients for these meals come from a produce auction outside of Harrisonburg, Va. Staff from the Kitchen drive down once a week to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. The fresh food is then used for the two schools and all of D.C. Kitchen’s recipients.

“It’s nice to be able to provide them with beautiful produce from this auction that’s packed full of nutrients that’s really going to help them in their development,” Johnson said.

This is the second year D.C. Central Kitchen has gone straight to the farm for ingredients. Johnson hopes to double the amount of produce D.C. Central Kitchen purchased from the auction last year.