Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Family Pays Tribute To 9/11 Victims With Service Project At DC Central Kitchen

President hails community kitchen as an "incredible program" as First Family packs meals for 4,000...
President Obama was up to his elbows in chicken & sausage gumbo on Saturday afternoon as he helped pack more than 4,000 meals at DC Central Kitchen, a community kitchen and culinary training facility located near the US Capitol in Washington. First Lady Obama and daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, joined the President for the community service project in honor of 9/11 victims. It came a day ahead of the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, because the President and Mrs. Obama will be participating in memorial events on Sunday in Washington, New York, and Pennsylvania. (Above: The President scoops gumbo as Malia and DCCK staff watch)

"I want to focus on the fact that outstanding programs like this and contributions of people all across the region is part of the spirit of remembering what 9/11 is all about-- the country being unified and looking out for one another," President Obama said, echoing sentiments in a morning e-mail he sent to supporters, and the message of his weekly address.

The President's shirtsleeves were rolled up and he wore blue plastic gloves and a white apron as he worked at an aluminum prep table, scooping gumbo, Malia by his side. DC Central founder Robert Egger and about twenty staff and volunteers joined the First Family to pack the gumbo, salad and cantaloupe slices into serving containers.

"This kitchen here is feeding 5,000 families a day," President Obama said. "And at the same time they're also training people directly in the culinary arts. So as a consequence folks going through this program end up being employable in restaurants facilities and hotels all across the region. An incredible program."

Mrs. Obama and Sasha were stationed at a different prep table from the President and Malia, and worked with vegetables sourced from the Shenandoah Valley Farmers' auction. DC Central chef Allison Sosna, who runs the organizations' school lunch program, is to the First Lady's right, above.

"Mrs Obama & Malia just helped cryo-vac enough locally sourced corn to produce thousands of meals this winter. #TheFirstFamilyGETSIT," Egger (@RobertEgger) tweeted after the project was done (sic).

"My twenty or so minutes with Michelle Obama today were surreal and she's also one of the easiest people to talk to," Sosna (@ChefAllisonDCCK) tweeted.

Sosna hails from New Jersey, and was on the varsity rowing team when attending American University in DC.

"Michelle Obama and I covered food access, food stamps, our culture of food, rowing, Sasha swimming's skills, living in jersey in 20minutes," Sosna said in another tweet (sic).

Sosna also spoke with Mrs. Obama about Sasha's love of searing tuna with the White House chefs, something Mrs. Obama first revealed during a reporters' luncheon in February.

Located on the ground floor of the Federal City Shelter, DC Central began its first phase of operations in 1989 when Egger organized a drive to feed the homeless with leftover food from the Presidential inauguration.

The nationally acclaimed Culinary Arts Training Program helps formerly incarcerated, addicted, homeless and unemployed men and women re-enter society. DC Central has a catering operation that is in high demand in Washington, and also provides lunches for area schools. They're responsible for boiling and coloring thousands of the eggs used each year at the White House Easter Egg Roll. (Above: The President scoops gumbo as Malia and a staffer look on)

As they worked, the President and Egger discussed the role nonprofits play in boosting the economy, Egger said in another tweet.

Mr. Obama "expressed great appreciation for the jobs #nonprofits create & our role in the economic rebuild of America," Egger tweeted (sic).

The 4,000 meals the First Family packed today will be distributed to schools, community groups and churches, according to a White House aide.

After the food packing was finished, the President and First Lady posed for photos with staff and volunteers. Both autographed the day's commemorative menu (above).

"Go D.C. Central Kitchen!" President Obama wrote above his signature.

The meal prep at DC Central came after the President and Mrs. Obama visited Arlington National Cemetery this morning, where they walked, holding hands, through graves in Section 60, the resting place for heroes lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The motorcade left the White House at 12:55, and arrived 1:02 at DC Central Kitchen. The First Family returned to the White House just before 2:00 PM.

Update: On Sunday, The President and Mrs. Obama visited the World Trade Center memorial in New York, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon to mark the anniversary with families of those killed in the terror attacks. The President also released a special video message for 9/11 families. In the evening, the President gave a moving address on American resilience after 9/11, as he spoke at "A Concert for Hope" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Video from AP:



*First and second photos by Getty; third and fourth by Samantha Appleton/White House; Menu photo from Robert Egger. *Updated.