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Leon Kaye headshot

2019: A Momentous Year for World Central Kitchen

By Leon Kaye
World Central Kitchen

Founded in 2010 by chef José Andrés, World Central Kitchen (WCK) hit its stride in 2017 when Andrés’ action in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island that fall. Its mission: ensuring citizens under duress could at least have one hot meal a day no matter how dire the circumstances.

Andrés launched the massive relief effort with credit cards and the $10,000 he had in his pockets. Within days, he was overseeing an operation that enlisted food trucks, culinary schools, large restaurant distributors, and some very well-known U.S. nonprofits in what turned out to be a $400,000-a-day relief effort. Since then, this NGO has offered lessons to both businesses and relief organizations on how to move fast and get things done.

This work, done at a frenetic yet effective pace, has not stopped: it has only scaled up. At the beginning of 2019, with D.C. mired in the middle of a federal government shutdown, WCK served 100,000 meals in the national capital – and that effort was replicated nationwide across 400 restaurants in 35 states.

February saw WCK ramp up its efforts in the southern hemisphere as the Venezuelan refugee crisis surged along the country’s border with Colombia. In the border town of Cúcuta, Colombia, more than 750,000 meals have been served as of yesterday. This past summer, WCK began relief operations within Venezuela as well.

That work continued across the Atlantic and to the Horn of Africa, where a month later, Tropical Cyclone Idai hit Beria, Mozambique, killing over 1,000 citizens and upending the lives of another 3 million. Within days, WCK started operations in the country, remaining active through May as the organization’s staff and volunteers served up 350,000 meals.

The work continued through the spring and summer, with wildfires and an earthquake in California; flooding in Nebraska and South Dakota; Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas; and an earthquake last month in Albania.

In addition to serving those hot meals, WCK runs several programs, including a $50 million Climate Action Fund launched earlier this year. That program seeks to ensure WCK’s fast action on the ground, from California to the Bahamas, can continue without a hitch. “WCK cooked and delivered hot meals every day of 2019,” Andrés said in an emailed statement, “and we have experienced a growing need for our work as we face increasing climate-related disasters and refugee crises affecting the most vulnerable.”

Learn more about WCK’s efforts, as well as ideas on how you can help, here.

Image credit: WCK/Facebook

Leon Kaye headshot

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.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye