World Central Kitchen COVID-19 Response

by World Central Kitchen, Inc.
World Central Kitchen COVID-19 Response
Gloribelle and Walid of Barcha in East Harlem
Gloribelle and Walid of Barcha in East Harlem

In response to the health, economic, and humanitarian impacts of COVID-19, WCK has engineered a model that simultaneously addresses two challenges at once: rising food insecurity and widespread restaurant closures. We have partnered with local, independent, and minority-owned restaurants to prepare meals for populations struggling to access food due to the pandemic. By paying restaurants an average of $10 per meal, WCK has provided guaranteed business and income to cover the cost of ingredients, employee wages, and monthly expenses such as rent and electricity. Since mid-March 2020, WCK has served more than 37 million meals in 410+ cities and partnered with 2,500+ restaurants, putting $162+ million back into the food service industry that has been devastated by the pandemic.

The pandemic paralyzed food relief systems and resulted in long lines at food banks across the country. In addition to traditional forms of meal delivery, we realized we needed an innovative approach. The WCK team piloted a text-to-order program called WCK Direct, which utilizes technology to allow food insecure households to order meals directly for delivery or pick-up from participating restaurants, as opposed to picking up meals from congregate sites. WCK collaborates with our network of community-based organizations to identify households in need. The pre-approved households place orders through our technology platform via text or phone call, choosing which participating restaurant to order meals from and detailing the number of meals needed that day. The restaurant views these orders and schedules deliveries or packages the meals for in-restaurant pick up. 

WCK Direct provides flexibility for families, as they decide what meal they would like, how many, and when they would like them. WCK Direct also creates more opportunities for personal and meaningful interactions when families pick up meals from restaurants. For example, Gloribelle and Walid, owners of partner restaurant Barcha in East Harlem and pictured above, told us, “WCK Direct is a genius idea. It's more than food service. It's more convenient and dignified for them, and resourceful for us. It lets me have a deeper connection with my neighbors one-on-one and a moment to ask, 'How are you? How's the family? What do you need?’”

Since piloting WCK Direct, we have served 125,000+ meals in Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC. WCK is launching the program in Oakland in the coming weeks and aims to expand to additional cities by the end of the year. With philanthropic support, we can continue to scale WCK Direct. We are grateful for your support of our work, which helps us provide nourishment and comfort to communities in need.

Picking up a meal through WCK Direct
Picking up a meal through WCK Direct
Meal prepared by partner La Adelita de Woodside
Meal prepared by partner La Adelita de Woodside

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It has now been more than a year since World Central Kitchen (WCK) served our first meal in New York City in response to the COVID pandemic. At that time, we could not foresee that we were embarking on our largest food relief effort in our organization’s history. Since mid-March 2020, WCK has served more than 36 million meals in 400+ cities to communities affected by the health, economic, and humanitarian impacts of the pandemic. Through Restaurants for the People, we have partnered with 2,400+ restaurants across the United States to help prepare these meals, putting more than $152 million directly back into local businesses and uplifting an industry that has been devastated by the pandemic. Some of WCK’s recent efforts are summarized below:

  • In early 2021, Los Angeles suffered a devastating surge in virus cases. It was estimated one person passed away from COVID-19 every 15 minutes in LA County, and hospitals were operating at 0% capacity. WCK ramped up our food relief efforts in the city, prioritizing overwhelmed medical facilities to deliver nourishing meals to frontline healthcare workers and providing meals to a limited number of community sites. In addition, we set up our Relief Food Truck in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium to prepare and serve meals to CORE Response staff and volunteers who have been working hard to vaccinate Californians. In total, we have served 3.8 million meals in LA.
  • In January and February 2021, WCK received funding to provide meals to frontline healthcare workers in NYC amid a new horrifying wave: COVID cases had surged, and the city’s available ICU beds were at their lowest level since last Spring. We ramped up our operation to serve 30,000 meals a day to 15 public hospitals for 30 days, even battling through a snowstorm to deliver meals.
  • In mid-March 2021, WCK started back up in California with the United Farm Workers Foundation to provide nourishing meals to farm workers in three counties—Kern, Ventura, and Tulare. Our first day of distribution included 1,900 meals from eight restaurants during a vaccination event for these essential workers. Since then, we have delivered more than 30,000 meals.

Looking Ahead

Our pandemic response continues where we are able. As part of our food relief efforts, we launched WCK Direct in New York City, a text-to-order program for families facing a lack of food. Our partner restaurants prepare fresh meals on demand, which can be picked up or delivered directly to households in need. WCK Direct has launched in Chicago, and we aim to expand the program to Washington, DC. With additional philanthropic support, we can continue to scale WCK Direct, which can serve as a longer-term solution to chronic food insecurity in the U.S. after the pandemic.

A second part of our ongoing pandemic response is the FEED Act, which is a bipartisan bill that aims to address two crises exacerbated by the Covid crisis: a significant increase in the number of hungry Americans and the loss of millions of restaurant jobs. The FEED Act would release FEMA funds at the state and local level to support restaurants as they prepare fresh meals to food insecure populations, allowing programs like our Restaurants for the People to expand across the country with federal support. Please see the link to WCK’s webpage on the FEED Act for more information.

Thank you for your support of WCK. We are grateful that you have joined us in nourishing communities in times of crisis and beyond, one plate at a time.

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A fresh restaurant-prepared meal served in LA
A fresh restaurant-prepared meal served in LA

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WCK has been cooking for 260 days — over eight months — and we’re still going. We have provided more 33.5 million meals in 400+ cities in 35 states and territories across the United States. Some of our largest citywide activations include: New York City (8.5 million meals); Oakland (2.3 million meals); southern California, including Los Angeles (4 million meals); Washington, D.C. (1.3 million); and New Orleans (1.26 million meals). Currently, our teams are distributing up to 20,000 meals per day nationwide while continuing to monitor needs across the country.

We have developed and refined our food relief model, which provides quality meals to communities in need while simultaneously supporting the struggling restaurant industry. By partnering with 2,450+ restaurants to provide more than 12 million nourishing meals, we have put $133.1 million (and rising!) directly back into an industry that has been devastated throughout the pandemic.

We continue to receive positive feedback from our restaurant partners and are pleased to share a snapshot of a few conversations below:

  • Jam’It Bistro in Brooklyn has been able to hire two employees from a local shelter to help prepare meals. Dawn, owner of the Jamaican restaurant, told us, “every dish is my reputation and a chance to spread the Jamaican love of food further & deeper.” 
  • Chef Terence, owner of Terra Café in Baltimore, which has prepared 11,800 in partnership with WCK, said, “I already knew we were going to be in trouble when it started. When you guys came, it was life saving.”
  • Chef Oumar of The Damel in Oakland told us, “I want to extend our thanks to you for not only saving our business from closing down but also for helping our great team stay employed. Your generosity reflects our mission statement of nurturing growth and building community. With WCK’s great partnership, The Damel is focusing on thriving and not surviving.”
  • Pão De Queijo is a Brazilian restaurant in Astoria, Queens. Karina told us, “Everyone in the city is bracing for the next months... With WCK, not only could we feed our community now as the city is recovering but also, it helps us financially prepare to survive through the winter. I’m saving every dollar from those meals to keep us afloat.”

COVID-19 is first and foremost a health crisis that has turned into an economic crisis as well as a humanitarian crisis. We’ve distributed meals to many communities in need, but with a looming winter season ahead, the pandemic will continue to cause hardship for millions of people and restaurants alike. Thank you for your support of our pandemic response. Together, we are providing fresh meals to communities in need while putting money back into small businesses around the country.

Karina of Pao De Queijo in Astoria, NY
Karina of Pao De Queijo in Astoria, NY
Dawn of Jam'It Bistro in Brooklyn, NY
Dawn of Jam'It Bistro in Brooklyn, NY

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In response to the humanitarian and economic crises brought on by COVID-19, WCK is doing what we do best: feeding people in need, including children and their families, seniors, and people who are now unemployed and struggling to feed themselves and their families. WCK launched our #ChefsForAmerica relief efforts in mid-March, handing out grab-n-go meals to families in need in The Bronx. We rapidly scaled our activation —providing up to 250,000 meals a day — to meet the growing need across the U.S. In five months, WCK has served more than 25 million meals to food insecure people in 400+ cities across the U.S., Spain, Indonesia, and the Dominican Republic. 

WCK has been operating grab-n-go sites in major cities including New York City, Detroit, Baltimore, and Los Angeles, partnering with local officials and organizations, such as Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN), at many of these sites. These partnerships allow WCK to ensure that we are identifying and reaching the communities most in need as a result of the pandemic.

In mid-April, WCK announced Restaurants for the People, a new program in which we pay restaurants $10/meal — which covers the cost of ingredients, staff wages, and monthly expenses like electricity — to provide fresh, nutritious food to their neighbors. This presents a powerful win-win solution: not only do families affected by the pandemic get access to restaurant-quality meals, but the restaurant industry that has been ravaged by continued shutdowns can keep cooking. Restaurants are able to keep their lights on, hire back employees, and purchase from local farms and producers, supporting the local and national economies. 

WCK has partnered with 2,400+ restaurants through Restaurants for the People to provide more than 10 million restaurant meals to communities around the country. We have disbursed more than $90 million directly to these small, independent restaurants, helping support an industry that needs support to keep doors open. Mott Haven — a neighborhood favorite in The Bronx — had to close in mid-March. When it reopened, delivery services were not enough to cover the restaurant’s expenses. Mott Haven joined Restaurants for the People and, to date, has provided more than 40,000 meals to food insecure people in the community. Rosa, owner of the restaurant, told us, “Without World Central Kitchen, there would not be a Mott Haven.” 

Thank you so much for your support of our efforts. The COVID-19 pandemic began as a health crisis and has since turned into an economic and humanitarian crisis as well. As cases continue to spike across the country and restaurants struggle to remain open, WCK’s Restaurants for the People model continues to provide a vital lifeline. With your support, we can provide fresh meals to people who desperately need them while helping local, independent restaurants keep their doors open.

Reverend Al Sharpton at a WCK grab-n-go site
Reverend Al Sharpton at a WCK grab-n-go site
Nutritious restaurant-prepared meal
Nutritious restaurant-prepared meal
Rosa of Mott Haven
Rosa of Mott Haven

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Organization Information

World Central Kitchen, Inc.

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @wckitchen
Project Leader:
Daniel Poole
Washington, DC United States
$74,823 raised of $80,000 goal
 
1,319 donations
$5,177 to go
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