Over five million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Five MILLION! They all have lives, careers, hopes, and families. Life has been upended in every way since the war began. This is on the heels of the Covid crisis when things were just beginning to get back to some level of normalcy. Thankfully, in the midst of the chaos, there are heroic and compassionate efforts as well. One shining example of heroism within the Ukraine crisis is World Central Kitchen (WCK), a nonprofit organization that provides fresh meals in response to crises while working to build resilient food systems with locally-led solutions, and is currently active in Ukraine and seven countries in the region. Phillips Charitable Foundation recently awarded WCK with a $100,000 grant to help with these efforts.
World Central Kitchen was founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés in response to the Haiti earthquake that year. Andres was on the Cayman Islands at the time; he made his way to Port-au-Prince where he cooked local food for the stranded and homeless. The rest is history.
We have all seen and heard about the heartbreaking news of war-torn Ukraine over these past few months. Despite the destruction and risk, World Central Kitchen is making approximately 300,000 meals per day. They’ve served almost 20 million meals since February 24th when the large-scale military operations began. They have teams active now in 110 cities and towns in Ukraine. They’ve also built a logistics network of delivery vans, trucks, trains, and warehouses throughout the country. This is all in just three months!
Maggie Leahy, Director of Donor Relations at World Central Kitchen, explained that WCK is able to ramp up quickly by working with local restaurants, caterers, and food trucks to provide fresh food and meals. Being one of the first to the front lines of an emergency is a critical part of the WCK services and they are quite good at it. As Leahy explained, people can’t wait long for a meal!
Chef José Andrés, the founder of WCK, has been active on social media throughout the Ukraine crisis. Daily, he shares tragic stories and courageous efforts. The World Central Kitchen social media channels are also providing regular coverage of what’s happening. For example, Chef Andrés shared a posting on Twitter from one of the WCK employees on May 1st:
Chef José Andrés
A few weeks ago, I visited Trostyanets, which had been devastated under Russian occupation. No stores, no food. This weekend, Serhii & the @WCKitchen team set up an outdoor café to provide free meals to residents still here & returning. We’ll be cooking every day! From @natemook
On April 29th Chef Andrés shared:
Today the @WCKitchen team visited 24 liberated villages north of Kyiv…taking 9 trucks with over 3,000 food bundles for families! So amazed by our Ukrainian Food Fighters making sure nobody is left behind...even in hard-to-reach areas like this!
Chef Andrés, in a CNN interview, explained that they do more than serve a plate of food. He says that they are also there to “send a message that we are with you, we are going to care for you, we aren’t going to let you go alone in this dark hour.”
An added challenge to serving meals for Ukrainians is that the situation is in a constant state of flux. In many disaster situations World Central Kitchen staff are able to come in and at least get things stabilized. That’s not so with the situation in Ukraine. They’ve had to remain prepared for constant danger and change.
Maggie Leahy explained that with any crisis they respond to, attention is driven by the media. Some disasters get little attention and thus little funding, yet WCK responds to those as well. For instance, she explained that two recent cyclones in Madagascar had little attention, but the WCK teams were on the ground immediately serving meals. More than 420,000 people were affected.
With Ukraine, there are worldwide ramifications so they are getting significant attention. This has been quite helpful for funding, especially considering the size of this humanitarian crisis. Additional funding means more meals can be served which are desperately needed. The needs are continuously growing.
It’s been heartbreaking to watch the unfolding humanitarian crisis resulting from this war. Yet at Phillips Charitable Foundation we’ve been encouraged by the efforts of individuals, corporations, foundations, and nonprofits that are helping those who are suffering. A heartfelt thank you to World Central Kitchen and the amazing impact staff and volunteers are having on the citizens of Ukraine and around the world. We continue to keep the people of Ukraine in our prayers and are honored to support WCK with this $100,000 grant.
Interested in Learning More?
On May 27th a documentary directed by Ron Howard will be released on Disney Plus. It features the groundbreaking relief work of Chef Jose Andres through World Central Kitchen.
Connect with Chef José Andrés and World Central Kitchen with these links:
For information on donating to WCK, click here.