World Central Kitchen Goes Where the Disasters Are… Feeding as Many Victims as Possible

World Central Kitchen Goes Where the Disasters Are… Feeding as Many Victims as Possible

When Hurricane Dorian headed toward the Bahamas, some people were able to get off the islands quickly.

And they were glad they did. The Category 5 storm turned out to be the worst storms ever experienced there.

It caused at least 60 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Countless buildings were destroyed, and more than 70,000 were left homeless.

Homes and businesses, including tourist resorts, were demolished. Many acres of land were ravaged.

Beating Dorian to the Bahamas

But famed chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen (WCK) volunteers did something no rational person would do.

They went to the Bahamas ahead of Dorian. They knew it was going to be a tragedy of epic proportions. They landed in the nation’s capital, Nassau. Then began setting up relief efforts that would be needed.

Andrés realized that the largest storm on record in the Bahamas would be a major humanitarian crisis. And that the government would need help keeping people alive.

So he and his volunteers risked their lives to provide what was needed when it was needed.

Adding Food Variety

Before the storm stuck, WCK set up more than a dozen potential kitchen sites on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. That way they’d be ready to feed people in need.

Several of those sites were destroyed by Dorian. Or were submerged in water. The group rebuilt what they could.

Tim Kilcoyne is director of chef operations for Washington, D.C.-based WCK. He said that on one day they were able to deliver more than 1,000 ham and cheese sandwiches to those on Abaco Island. The next day they made tuna sandwiches.

With many grocery stores closed, this food was a huge help to the thousands driven out of their homes by the storm. Especially those who had no food stockpiled. As of a recent count, WCK has served about 500,000 meals in the Bahamas.

At Home and Abroad

This is not the first time Andrés and WCK have jumped into a disaster feet first to help keep storm victims alive.

They served as first responders two years ago. That’s when Hurricane Maria pulverized Puerto Rico.

They deployed to Venezuela during the political power struggle there. They also went to California to aid victims of wildfires.

And they set up relief kitchen operations in Indonesia. That was following an earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Closer to home, they helped feed federal workers in Washington, D.C. That was during a partial government shutdown. As well as feeding Dorian victims in the Carolinas and Florida.

10 Million Meals and Counting

Through the years, WCK has prepared and served some 10 million meals around the globe.

Due mainly to donations, the organization had $16.3 million in assets in 2018. Just two years previously, the amount was only $119,000.

WCK is frequently first on the scene. So, their social media posts often provide news about a crisis before the media arrives.

The group’s activities have not gone unnoticed. Andrés has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by former Congressman John Delaney of Maryland.

Trying to Raise $50 Million

So far this year, WCK has responded to 19 disasters. The group learns something new each time that helps them deal with the next crisis better.

Andrés said, “Especially in the last few years, we’ve been to so many places around the world. The learning from the last several years is paying off.”

By gathering donations in advance of a crisis, WCK is better able to serve victims of extreme weather in a timely fashion. And manmade disasters as well.

Now Andrés has set his sights on raising $50 million to go toward disaster response efforts. So far, $5 million has been provided by funders.

An Evolving Organization

The genesis of WCK goes back to 2010 when Andrés founded it. Haiti had just been hit with an earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The first rendition of WCK was an educational and job training nonprofit organization.

It was all about teaching locals how to cook and installing cook stoves. As well as making sure schools were serving healthy lunches.

The disaster relief branch of the organization though began in 2016. After Hurricane Michael pounded Haiti. Next came relief efforts for people in the Houston area following Hurricane Harvey.

Clara Barton the Inspiration

After Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico in 2017, WCK served 3.7 million meals carrying over to 2018.

WCK served food to every municipality in Puerto Rico. And became the largest food-providing operation specifically targeting Hurricane Maria survivors.

Andrés said he got the idea for his group from what the famed nurse Clara Barton did during the Civil War.

She and her group provided medical assistance to soldiers from both the North and South. Andrés called Barton’s program an “incredible network and system.” He decided to do something similar. Using cooking rather than nursing.

‘What We Have Is a Lot of Empathy’

Andrés is enthusiastic about his organization, but also very humble. “We don’t have any technique that is very difficult or very special,” he said. “What we have is a lot of empathy.”

One thing for certain is that WCK will never have a shortage of responsibilities to do. The World Health Organization says natural disasters affect 160 million people worldwide. And unfortunately, not many people are as prepared for the worst as they should.

Thankfully there are people such as Andrés who devote their lives to something important. Feeding people and helping them recover from their loss.

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