Upon returning home from a trip earlier this week on a short flight from San Francisco to my town, I, along with other passengers on the plane, were struck by what California looked like from 30,000 feet above ground. This month’s wildfires, notably the Woolsey Fire and Camp Fire, had left a thick brown haze across the Golden State. Many passengers on my flight could not help but stare at the land below us in complete disbelief as views of the Coastal Ranges and Sierra Nevada mountains were covered by smoke.
And now, although the rain falling this evening will help clear the air, the rainfall will make recovery efforts in the regions surrounding those fires even more difficult.
To be clear, those of us on that early morning flight were among the lucky ones. The Camp Fire in Butte County had become the deadliest and most devastating in California’s history, while in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the Woolsey Fire forced the evacuation of approximately 300,000 people.
Meanwhile, tales of what life is like in the temporary camps that have sprung up in towns like Chico are heartbreaking. And the future of Paradise, the Sierra Nevada foothills town once home to 27,000 people, is uncertain after the community was destroyed on November 8. For too many Californians, this year’s Thanksgiving will be a grim reminder of what they have lost.
One nonprofit, however, is doing what it can to offer a glimmer of light, hope and comfort for tomorrow’s holiday.
World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, is going beyond the call of duty to provide Thanksgiving meals for citizens displaced by the wildfires, first responders and firefighters.
To date, World Central Kitchen’s chefs and support staff have cooked 130,000 meals between its Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire emergency kitchens. The group is now gearing up to prepare 15,000 Thanksgiving meals for the town of Paradise, as well as surrounding shelters and informal camps that have emerged across the upper Sacramento Valley.
For World Central Kitchen, its mission, which is to use the power of food to empower food and strengthen economies, the work continues since first serving meals in Haiti after that country’s catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Its relief efforts have expanded worldwide, including across Brazil, Cambodia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Zambia, and the United States.
Last year, Andrés and World Central Kitchen led disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria killed approximately 3,000 people and wiped out the island’s infrastructure. It was that work that inspired this organization to name Andrés the ‘Brands Taking Stands’ Humanitarian of the Year award last month at 3BL Forum.
Over the past year, World Central Kitchen has served 4.8 million meals to people who have suffered from environmental and natural disasters worldwide. Its mission will continue here in California - and could start anew anywhere on Earth at any moment. You or your company can learn about its work and donate here.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at World Central Kitchen; and thank you for your compassion and all the hard work you are doing across the Golden State and beyond.
Image credits: Gaspar Dietrich/World Central Kitchen
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.