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World Central Kitchen Serves Nearly 25 Million Meals

July 2020

José and the WCK team have served nearly 25 million meals throughout the US, Spain, and beyond in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s been more than 5 months since the World Central Kitchen team touched down in Yokohama, Japan, to serve tens of thousands of meals to the crew and passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Since then, the world has changed drastically – health, economic, and humanitarian crises have compounded to deeply impact families and communities everywhere – and WCK has adapted to meet unprecedented demand beyond anything José or the team has seen before.

In mid-March, when cities across the United States started feeling the effects of COVID-19, WCK jumped into action. From New York to Los Angeles, through Little Rock, New Orleans, and beyond, the team activated food trucks, caterers, restaurants, and stadium kitchens to start feeding people in need of a hot meal. Chefs For America was in action.

In April, José and the WCK team announced a new initiative they had developed based on the fact that the restaurant industry was uniquely devastated by the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns: Restaurants for the People. The program aims to meet need on two crucial fronts – buying meals directly from endangered restaurants and delivering them to Americans who need help. The benefits from this program echo widely throughout the national economy. Not only are restaurants hiring back their workers, they are able to keep supporting farmers and fishers, cheesemakers and ranchers, as well as the shipping and distribution industries that keep our economy running.

Chef Oumar DioufChef Oumar Diouf is a restaurant owner in Oakland, California. He was born and raised in Senegal, where he began to love the kitchen at the age of 13, learning to cook with his mother. He went to law school for three years, but left Senegal to follow a dream of playing soccer in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After an injury, Oumar pursued a career in kitchens, and worked in restaurants in Argentina and Brazil – even cooking for Olympic teams during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Last year, Oumar opened The Damel in Oakland, specializing in West African and South American dishes. The Damel is known as a party restaurant – they hosted Brazilian dance parties every week – so the pandemic hit business hard. Oumar was about to close down entirely – he’d even given his 30 days notice to his landlord – when WCK reached out. He took back his notice and kept his entire staff, plus added two more team members, to cook for his community. He’s now serving thousands of meals a week to the people of Oakland.

Stories like Chef Oumar’s keep WCK driven and pushing forward. Since WCK began its pandemic response, it has served nearly 25 million meals in more than 30 states and territories around the country, as well as in Spain, Indonesia, and the Dominican Republic. Restaurants have brought back thousands of employees around the country to serve more than 5 million meals for their communities, and WCK has injected almost $70 million into local economies through restaurants.

The work continues, though – with cases rising around the country, there will continue to be a need for fresh meals and messages of hope. As José always says, referencing the Grapes of Wrath – wherever there’s a fight so that hungry people may eat … we’ll be there.

To learn more about the work of World Central Kitchen, follow along on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and check out WCK.org. To donate, click here.