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An Update From Puerto Rico

April 2018

In September of 2017, José first landed in Puerto Rico with intentions of helping out for a few days after Hurricane Maria left the island devastated and mostly without electricity. He brought with him a few changes of clothes and enough food to make 1,000 meals. He hadn't planned to stay as long as he did, but what started as preparing 1,000 meals has turned to over 3.5 million to date, as José worked alongside the World Central Kitchen team and with the invaluable support of the #ChefsForPuertoRico network of chefs and volunteers.

As José noted during a conversation at SXSW with Andrew Zimmern and Dana Cowin: "So the first day we did 1,000 meals with 1 kitchen, [and now we've done] 3.4 million meals. At the end we didn’t think big, we actually thought small. We did 1,000 today, can we do 2,000 tomorrow? 5? 10? We were 20 volunteers, we became 20,000, an army of men and women."

Today, the work is ongoing - WCK continues preparing meals out of multiple kitchens and reaching communities still in need across the island. Since electricity hasn't fully been restored on the island, there is still much to do. The team is working with food truck partners to get them back online and growing again, in order to support local chefs and bakers expand their businesses and thereby strengthen the local economy.

Access to food has stabilized in most places on the island, so WCK is starting to work with farmers to help them rebuild and begin getting more of their products into restaurants and markets. Even before the hurricane hit, Puerto Rico heavily relied on imports - it imports about 85% of its food, so the organization sees a huge opportunity in expanding local farmers’ capacity. The team is establishing a farm cooperative and training center to support dozens of farmers, and is starting to provide sustainable grants to fishermen, farmers, and chefs-in-training. The goal is to build resiliency - 2018 is forecast to be an even worse hurricane season than 2017, so it is very important that the island is prepared for the next disaster.

For his work in Puerto Rico, alongside WCK and the #ChefsforPuertoRico team, José has been awarded the 2018 James Beard Humanitarian Award - read more about it here.

To learn more about World Central Kitchen's work in Puerto Rico and around the world, check out the website. The organization's annual fundraiser, Dine-n-Dash, is coming up - tickets are now on sale. And stay tuned on José's Twitter account and Instagram for more - he regularly posts updates from teammates on the ground.