Within the last month, World Central Kitchen has served more than 1 million meals nationwide in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit, founded by award-winning Chef José Andrés, has served fresh, nutritious food to survivors of disasters since 2010. Their first coronavirus-related activation began in February when they deployed a team to delivery food to the guests and crew quarantined on the Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan. Shortly afterward, they turned their attention to the US and started their #ChefsForAmerica initiative. WCK has Relief Teams setup in more than 65 cities in the US. We talked to Ramiro Arevalo, Manager of Partnerships and Relief Operations at WCK, about their efforts in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.
WCK is headquartered in Washington DC, but moved their team to Nationals Park, home to the Washington Nationals baseball team, to give their rapidly expanding operation more room. After the WCK Relief Team cooks fresh, hot meals, they’re packed inside individual containers and loaded into Cam GoBoxes to be delivered to hospitals, seniors homes and schools across the city.
“Cambros have been completely essential and our lifeline to being able to scale and get people what they need. Without the Cambros, especially these new light boxes, we wouldn’t be able to scale as quickly,” said Arevalo. “[Cam GoBoxes] are essential to us getting our job done.”
In addition to their efforts out of Nationals Park, Arevalo says WCK is “teaming up with local restaurants and local entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry to help support them.” This new model employs restaurants to cook relief meals and meal delivery services to transport them.
“This nationwide, scalable effort will feed those in need, as well as guarantee a reliable and recurring stream of revenue for restaurants that are prepared to safely produce nutritious meals — and provide income to delivery drivers,” states the WCK website.
“Our goal at World Central Kitchen is to provide meals with there’s a high number of displacement of people and the food security within the [Los Angeles] school system is pretty dire. We felt the need to work with the LA Red Cross as soon as they called us,” said Arevalo.
Arevalo is working within WCK’s Los Angeles operation. After being contacted by the Red Cross and Gov. Gavin Newsom, WCK set up their organization in Southern California to help supplement school meals for the Los Angeles Unified School District. They’re providing more than 40,000 meals a day out of 64 distribution sites. Meals are prepared fresh and then frozen for distribution in order to give families the option of eating it when they need it. WCK works hard to make their food as delicious as it is nutritional.
“We always alter the food to local tastes. Food are memories, it’s universal. This week, we added some pupusas…and a coleslaw traditional to Central America and a lot of people are very thankful,” said Arevalo. “We had a barbecue patty last week, which some people were asking for seconds and continued to ask when we’ll do it again. The response has been great.”
WCK has already made a huge impact on millions of Americans who have found themselves without a job and unable to provide food for their families—but their job is far from over.
“This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Anything helps. If anybody can make a donation as small as a dollar, it goes a long way. Especially as we look to put money into the local restaurants in our new pilot program nationwide, there is a meal cost that is higher than our norm, but it’s to make sure that we can provide to those employees in those local restaurants,” said Arevalo.
If you would like to help support WCK, click here to donate.
Where to find free meals near you
Many people aren’t aware of the free meals available in their communities. World Central Kitchen is continually updating a map of school districts serving meals to students and restaurants and organizations offering meals to seniors and vulnerable communities. The map has a “restaurant view” and a “school view” depending on the type of meals you’re looking for. Click here to view the full map.