It's been over three months since Hurricane Maria virtually destroyed the island of Puerto Rico, leaving the people of the United States territory without many of life's basic necessities, including enough food to eat. Our news cycles move pretty quickly, and stories about relief and recovery in Puerto Rico have lessened, making the situation on the island easy to put out of our minds.
Fortunately, the situation is front of mind for World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by Chef José Andrés after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He and a group of "frontline chefs" — including Carla Hall, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio and Aarrón Sánchez — work with other socially conscious chefs and volunteers who are matched with communities that can use their specific culinary skills.
Since 2010, World Central Kitchen has worked in Brazil, Cambodia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Zambia, and the United States, most recently bringing relief to Texas after Hurricane Harvey and California after some of the devastating fires that began in late fall and continue to burn.
The organization has been particularly vital in Puerto Rico, where the need for food has been so great and the ability for the islanders to get food on their own has been so difficult. According to Eater, World Central Kitchen was the island’s primary food source after Hurricane Maria, feeding more people than any other organization. They work with the most vulnerable populations, including the elderly.
In the Twitter video update below from last November, Andrés explains that in the home for the elderly behind him, the kitchens are electric. Although there are generators working to keep the elevators operational and give some light, the residents have no power in their kitchens.
It's more than just a meal
As of mid-December the organization had prepared 3,041,414 balanced, nutritious hot meals and quality sandwiches from scratch, according to Erin Shrode, who is a #ChefsforPeurtoRico leader for World Central Kitchen. In her post on Medium, Shrode made the observation that the meals they're making — meals made from Puerto Rican recipes — are more than food and calories. They represent "sustenance, hope, opportunity, community, health, love, proof that you're not forgotten."
World Central Kitchen is making sure the most vulnerable in Puerto Rico are not forgotten. While Eater reported the organization would stay on the island through Christmas and probably begin pulling out after, Andrés made it clear on Jan. 2 that their efforts will continue into 2018 because the need is still so great.
There's no question that work of World Central Kitchen is still greatly needed in Puerto Rico and will be needed in other areas of the world as natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires increase in severity as our climate changes. World Central Kitchen originally went to Puerto Rico with $1.5 million from FEMA, according to Time, but but Andrés called the amount "petty cash." It's private funding that has allowed the organization to stay and continue to its important work. The organization is a registered 501c(3) and accepts donations.