Even prior to COVID-19, an estimated 37 million Americans faced hunger daily. But since the outbreak, those numbers have rapidly escalated as job losses mount. U.S. workers are filing for unemployment at unprecedented rates, and the ongoing closures of many small businesses are likely to contribute further to that number. This is of particular concern to the restaurant industry, the second-largest private employer in the U.S. The food and beverage sector accounted for 60% of all jobs lost in March alone, signaling that the industry could be on the brink of collapse. Additionally, the reduction in access to food programs in schools, where 30 million low-income students receive daily meals, and in senior centers, which feed 2.9 million adults, is putting additional strain on already vulnerable communities.
World Central Kitchen (WCK) has developed an innovative solution that is providing fresh meals to people in immediate need and keeping small businesses open during the current health and economic crisis. Since 2010, WCK has provided fresh and nutritious meals to those in need immediately following disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. The outbreak of COVID-19, which resulted in many restaurants not being able to continue regular operations, inspired WCK to pivot their model to "employ" restaurants in those efforts. WCK has already paid over 1100 U.S. restaurants to make an average of 250 meals a day, offering meals directly to those in need and keeping restaurant workers (and those further down the food supply chain) gainfully employed. Now, WCK will look to demonstrate their ability to scale their work via expansion in a single geography. By employing 200 Oakland, CA restaurants (roughly 16% of the local restaurant industry) to serve nearly 2 million meals by the end of July, they will deliver a powerful "proof of concept" for a model that could inform food assistance efforts around the world.
World Central Kitchen has already begun this rapid-fire work and is set to employ 200 restaurants in just three months. As they do in every community where they have a presence, WCK will work with Oakland city leaders, agencies, and community-based organizations to identify food-insecure populations. At the same time, they will link that demand with restaurants that fit their framework (i.e., small, independent, may otherwise not survive) and onboard them to produce an average of 250 nutritious meals a day at an all-inclusive cost of $10 per meal. Utilizing logistics technology, WCK will deliver meals directly to the recipients, further providing jobs to drivers. Through this model, WCK can leverage one meal into many meals by keeping restaurant and delivery workers, food distributors, and farmers employed and feeding their families.
Since its founding, WCK has served 18M+ meals in locations across the world and has generated more than $25.5 million in revenue for small businesses. In Oakland, where they have longstanding relationships with residents, business owners, and local government, the systems are readily in place for WCK to scale up in a targeted geography. By the end of July 2020, WCK will have produced 2 million meals, fed 50,000 people daily, and kept thousands of workers employed — further demonstrating the efficacy of their model. This would also potentially allow them to unlock significant federal funding in California — where Governor Gavin Newsom is in talks to allocate FEMA funding to participating restaurants.
José is the founder of World Central Kitchen and an internationally recognized culinary innovator, author, educator, television personality, humanitarian, and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. A pioneer of Spanish tapas in the United States, he is also known for his groundbreaking avant-garde cuisine and his award-winning group of restaurants. Andrés is a committed advocate of food and hunger issues and is known for championing the role of chefs in the national debate on food policy. In 2010, he formed World Central Kitchen to provide smart solutions to hunger and poverty by using the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies. He has been honored as one of TIME's "100 Most Influential People," and was awarded "Outstanding Chef" and "Humanitarian of the Year" by the James Beard Foundation.
Nate is the CEO of World Central Kitchen. Nate began his career as a tech entrepreneur and later worked as documentary producer, leading film productions around the world for the UN, USAID, and World Bank. He produced the film Baltimore Rising for HBO. Nate previously developed and spearheaded TEDx events in numerous countries, and was selected as a Gates Foundation “Change Hero” for his work with TEDx elevating voices in underserved communities. Nate began working with José Andrés and World Central Kitchen in 2012, and together they produced a PBS/National Geographic documentary on Haiti in 2015. Nate led World Central Kitchen’s food relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in September 2017, ultimately becoming WCK’s CEO in early 2018. Since then, Nate has led the organization’s dramatic growth and strategic shift to its current work using food as a solution to humanitarian crises around the world.