Chef and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés tells The Washington Post that his organization is launching a new initiative that will pay as many as 400 small restaurants across the U.S. to partially and safely reopen and prepare up to one million meals for families in need. ”WCK’s program hopes not only to provide jobs to some of the unemployed hospitality workers,” The Post reports, “but also to feed those people who have lost their paychecks or who are otherwise vulnerable during the pandemic.”
“This is only a drop in the water,” the chef said according to the report, but that’s him downplaying the recent work he’s done on novel coronavirus relief alone. In fact, WCK’s program could make all the difference for many businesses, “With news that the Small Business Administration’s $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program is already tapped out,” the report continued.
“Andrés’ rapidly expanding charity, World Central Kitchen, is as prepared as anyone for this moment of unprecedented global crisis,” TIME magazine reported last month. “The nonprofit stands up field kitchens to feed thousands of people fresh, nourishing, often hot meals as soon as possible at the scene of a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or flood”—and now as an astounding 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance (and many others remain without a safety net at all).
According to The Post, WCK plans to pay small restaurants to prepare hundreds of meals daily over a period of time, which could allow them to resume at least some of their operations and stay afloat. ”The restaurateurs will know exactly how much money to expect and can use the funds to rehire staff, order the ingredients and prepare the meals. WCK will handle all other logistics.” A statement from WCK notes workers must of course be brought back safely. “WCK will then deliver those meals with partners to families, seniors, frontline healthcare workers & more,” it continued.
This has been just the latest expansion in the chef’s relief response, after turning some of his shuttered restaurants into to-go community kitchens, and traveling to San Francisco to help feed people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship. According to WCK, the organization has expanded to 475 distribution centers across 65 cities—so far. “WCK will keep reaching more communities who need it most, feeding families, frontline healthcare workers, and first responders keeping us safe,” the organization said.
WCK said in the statement that the organization has now distributed over two million meals as it launches the initiative. “Restaurants are the nation’s second largest employer, accounting for more than 15 million jobs in the United States. With many across the country closed completely or operating with just a fraction of their staff, the industry has been devastated. It is WCK’s intention that by working directly with restaurants and providing the demand for the restaurant business, we can get meals to those who need them most while also uplifting an industry that needs all of our help to keep their doors open.”