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WCK Activates for Natural and Humanitarian Disasters

July 2019

It’s been another busy period for World Central Kitchen’s Chef Relief Team, as disasters – both natural and manmade – have sent them to cook all around the western hemisphere. On the evening of July 4, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the towns of Ridgecrest and Trona in southern California, followed the next night by a powerful 7.1-magnitude quake.

World Central Kitchen’s Director of Chef Operations Tim Kilcoyne was in Ridgecrest assessing the need for meals after the first quake and experienced the second one firsthand. Along with a strong team of local volunteers, Tim and the World Central Kitchen team got cooking, preparing hot meals for evacuation shelters and first responders and bag lunches for community members whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the quakes. After nearly three weeks of cooking, they’ve prepared and distributed nearly 25,000 meals.

Soon after the earthquakes, Hurricane Barry started to loom off the Gulf coast of Louisiana, and the team quickly activated in order to stay ahead of it. They opened kitchens in Lafayette, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge before the storm hit and were able to immediately reach communities in need of hot meals before it made landfall. With the help of some creative transportation and the support of local government officials, the team served meals to evacuation shelters, communities isolated by the flooding, an animal intake shelter, and first responders.

Simultaneously, World Central Kitchen continues to respond to humanitarian crises as well. Due to increasing need in the city of Tijuana as refugees travel from their home countries toward the US-Mexico border, the team re-opened a kitchen and started serving hundreds of meals a day. With the possibility that more refugees will be forced to remain in Mexico while they wait on their asylum claims, the team is prepared to serve them the hot, nutritious meals they deserve. 

The team has also been active on the ground in Colombia since February, serving meals to various shelters along the route taken by thousands of refugees fleeing the political crisis in Venezuela. They have served more than 540,000 meals to date, alongside an amazing local team of Venezuelans who fled themselves and have since been committed to supporting and feeding their compatriots as they journey to find a better life.

With hurricane season upon us, and as the potential of wildfires in California increases throughout the summer, José and World Central Kitchen will be on high alert and ready to take on emergencies as they arise. As José likes to say, paraphrasing the novelist John Steinbeck, “wherever there’s a fight so hungry people may eat, we will be there.”

Learn more about World Central Kitchen’s efforts here, and donate to support their work here.