The coronavirus has left newly-unemployed Americans unable to afford groceries, home-bound children without school lunches, isolated seniors cut off from hot meals and healthcare workers too busy to cook. World Central Kitchen, with support from Bank of America, has stepped forward to provide free meals to those in need, while keeping restaurant workers employed.
How World Central Kitchen is feeding the hungry and providing employment by helping chefs do what they do best
Founded by chef José Andrés after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit has already provided more than 3 million meals across the U.S., operating in cities from New York to Baltimore and New Orleans to Los Angeles. “It’s humbling because everywhere we go, there is such gratitude,” said CEO Nate Mook. “It’s also heartbreaking because you realize that this is out of everybody’s control.”
Rather than setting up mobile kitchens during the coronavirus pandemic, as it had in past disaster zones, World Central Kitchen hit upon a novel approach: hire struggling restaurants to prepare meals for those in need, thus keeping cooks employed and restaurant supply chains up and running. “We’re connecting people who need jobs with people who need food,” Mook said. Called #ChefsForAmerica, the program is producing more than 160,000 fresh meals a day, feeding hungry groups like the 900 exhausted healthcare workers who were subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches in a New York hotel. populations.
The scale of this operation far exceeds anything the group has done before. “Typically with disasters there is a geographical focus,” Mook said, “but the challenge now is that we can be in only so many places at once.” Because World Central Kitchen receives no government aid, their greatest need is funding to pay for an operation that Mook estimates may eventually cost $90 million to $120 million. As part of its $100 million grant to support more than 450 organizations in local communities, Bank of America has given World Central Kitchen $500,000 to continue its programs.
While meals fill a crucial need, Mook noted, at times like this food is more than sustenance. “It’s also a reminder that someone cares for you, that someone is here.” With the duration of the coronavirus looking to be open-ended, World Central Kitchen plans to be delivering that care for the long-term.
As the challenges the coronavirus present evolve, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they can only be addressed through cooperation at all levels of society. Learn more about the part Bank of America is playing, including its $100 million commitment to support local communities that is in addition to the $250 million in philanthropy we provide each year.