José Andrés and World Central Kitchen Are Already on the Ground to Help Feed Ukraine
In the decade-plus since being founded by Chef José Andrés, the nonprofit World Central Kitchen has developed a mind-bending ability to respond to seemingly every major disaster across the globe to serve meals to those in need. To wit, at the start of last week, the WCK Twitter account was posting about relief efforts in Brazil, Madagascar, and Tonga.
Global attention shifted midweek when Russia officially invaded Ukraine, but even the threat of a protracted armed conflict wouldn't keep Andrés and his team away. "We are arriving to Poland to see what we can do!" the chef tweeted on February 25.
As is typically the case, WCK already had plenty they can do. That same day, WCK was already on the ground at Ukraine's border with Poland, serving meals to refugees who were fleeing the country. And yesterday, Andrés promised that the organization would mobilize similar efforts in "any country bordering Ukraine," then took to Twitter to offer a video report in the frigid conditions from the ground. "We are in different places across the border in Poland. We are already feeding in Romania. We're going to be in different entry points," he stated.
Andres also said WCK is working to keep people fed within Ukraine, too, offering financial resources to cooks to help their countrymen. "We have restaurants inside Odessa. We are contacting others, and we're telling them, 'Guys, there are many ways to fight. Some people fight, you are making sure people are fed,'" the chef said.
Indeed, the WCK Twitter account shared photos and video of one of the restaurants they've already partnered with inside the embattled country. "Fresh meals coming out of the kitchen in Odessa, Ukraine!" they tweeted. "WCK is working with Chef Aleksander Yourz & team at Yourz Space Bistro prepping 1,000 plates of pasta & fresh baked bread for residents & those defending the city — they'll scale up service as they're able."
"So this is phase one, taking care of the borders," Andrés continued in his video from Poland. "I think we've done a good job in less than three days. We are exponentially increasing the output of meals. I think only around here we've done over 8,000 meals – only here – and we have other feeding points. But if we need to reach a quarter million, we will."
Sam Bloch, WCK's director of field operations, also tweeted a short video report at an area where a Polish-operated ramen food truck had set up shop to help refugees. "Something like 150,000 people have left Ukraine, so things are happening very quickly," he explained. "[It's a] really dynamic situation. Shelters like this are popping up all over the place, and we're just doing our best to be there as soon as people are arriving with that food. That's in addition to the meals we are providing at the border so that, as soon as people enter the country, they have something to eat."
Anyone looking to support WCK's efforts can donate to the organization at wck.org.
But you may be able to benefit Ukraine simply by eating locally. Across the country, plenty of restaurants and cafes have been showing their support for the Eastern European country by pledging to donate proceeds to different pro-Ukraine charities — a cheesecake and espresso shop in San Antonio, a bakery in Knoxville, and a couple of Pirogi Week participants in Cleveland, just to name a few.
But for Andrés, simply speaking out against these injustices is enough. "Many of you are thinking, What can I do?" Andrés said in a video he posted showing his initial reaction to the conflict. "I think it's up for every one of us to start speaking up every time we see things that they are unjustified."