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José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen Feeds People In Crisis

Chef José Andrés is doing far more than just creating meals at some of the world’s best-rated restaurants. The Spanish-American restaurateur is a James Beard-winning chef and co-founder of the Global Food Institute at George Washington University. He and his wife Patricia founded the international food-aid group World Central Kitchen (WCK) in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. 

WCK travels the globe and provides healthy meals to people devastated by crises, such as natural disasters and war. The company also invests in long-term food resilience programs in the Caribbean and Central America. Andrés hopes the company will inspire greater global food relief action after a crisis.

Photo Courtesy WCK

WCK is currently working in Ukraine, with more than 4,000 cooks and volunteers in the country. Each day, they provide thousands of meals and pounds of food at nearly 10,000 distribution sites.

Almost all the supplies delivered have been sourced from an in-country network of Ukrainian farmers and suppliers.

Using Ukrainian sources gave “a sense of dignity and hope and the strength to continue on in a very tough situation,” Abiola Afolayan, international policy advisor for Bread for the World, told  “Forbes.”

WCK’s Ukrainian effort has been funded by $10 million from a $100-million Courage and Civility Award received from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Though the company’s work has been significant, Andrés worries that there are not enough organizations to help feed hungry Ukrainians.

Photo Courtesy WCK

“We have 550 restaurants and thousands of chefs here in Ukraine,” Andrés told “Food & Wine.” “Sometimes life requires these moments where I’m using food in another way. This opportunity helped me realize I can engage restaurants and chefs and food in another role and fulfill my maximum possibility.”

Since 2010 in Haiti, WCK has organized meal relief in Peru, Cuba, Uganda, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Poland — as well as Turkey and Syria after the large earthquake in February 2023. It also provided meals in the United States and Puerto Rico during the pandemic. Across the globe, WCK served 250 million meals last year alone.

Photo Courtesy WCK

Andrés feels that chefs have the ability to create positive change in the world and is excited by the changes he’s seen recently in the industry.

“I feel chefs have all, in one way or another in the last few years, gone beyond their own restaurants, taken on food issues that go beyond their restaurants,” he said to “Food & Wine.” “Restaurants all across America now address homelessness, feeding veterans, putting food in schools.”

“But when people come to one of my restaurants, I want them to have a good time, and you won’t see any mention of causes because a restaurant is a sanctuary for celebration, for a good meal with friends,” he continued.

WCK accepts donations directly on its website. The funds help world food relief and programs such as École des Chefs, which prepares young chefs for a first job in commercial kitchens in Haiti. In the meantime, the organization continues to focus on making sure quality and healthy meals are available to people who need them the most, wherever they are.

Photo Courtesy WCK

“You need to conquer the enemy,” Andrés said. “The enemy is pessimism, hunger, and the not-possible.”

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