José Andrés Is Using Food to Empower Communities Across The Globe
For many in the hospitality industry, the last year and a half has been about survival. With almost 80,000 U.S. restaurants going under in such a short time, according to Datassential, chefs and restaurant owners have been doing whatever they can to keep their businesses afloat and their staff employed. A few celebrity chefs have emerged during this time as hero figures, doing whatever they can to help others. Perhaps the most notable example of this is José Andrés.
A Michelin-starred chef and entrepreneur, Andrés owns a restaurant group called ThinkFoodGroup that houses over 30 restaurants in the U.S., and he is the founder of World Central Kitchen (WCK), a nonprofit that serves food to communities in need. WCK had typically served communities reeling from natural disasters, but when COVID hit, the organization took on helping the many people, communities and restaurateurs affected by the pandemic. At the time of writing, the relief organization has served upwards of 36 million meals in over 400 cities. In addition to helping feed communities in need, WCK has also been helping restaurants hit hard by the pandemic with its #ChefsForAmerica initiative. This program supports restaurants by buying meals from them and then delivering them to those in need. So far, the organization has bought over $160 million worth of carryout, warranting 15 million meals.
This only scratches the surface of what Andrés has accomplished with WCK. In a letter on the nonprofit’s website, Andrés passionately writes about the importance of using food to empower communities and economies through serving meals, but also through initiatives like their clean cooking program, which works to provide liquid propane gas for cooking to schools and community kitchens in the Caribbean and Central America, as well as installing water lines and sinks to make clean up much easier. And while ease is great to have, the reasoning for providing these things is more related to survival, as the WCK claims that over four million people die annually from health issues related to unclean cooktops. The organization also has an initiative called the Food Producer Network, in which WCK helps small farmers, food producers and food-related businesses serving local communities by providing funding, as well as educational and network-building opportunities.
“Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people may eat, we will be there—we must be there,” Andrés ends his letter on WCK’s site. Through his organization’s many programs and initiatives to not only feed people, but also to help them sustain themselves and their economies, Andrés might be the entrepreneur best equipped to actually end world hunger.