Now going into its seventh week, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left millions displaced, hungry and in desperate need of help. Once again, José Andrés and World Central Kitchen have come to the rescue during a crisis, providing 5 million meals to Ukraine’s refugees and to those still suffering within the country’s borders. (The latter group accounts for nearly half of the total meals served.)
“With one plate of food at a time, we may not end this war,” said Andrés in an April 3 tweet. “But at the very least we are going to make sure that people don’t suffer more.” From the first moments of the war, WCK was serving warm meals at a 24-hour border crossing in southern Poland, quickly expanding to eight crossings along the Polish border. The hunger-relief organization now operates at 41 crossings on Ukraine’s border, with a warehouse and field kitchen in Przemyśl, Poland.
To prepare its meals, WCK has partnered with restaurants, catering companies and food trucks, including local suppliers in Ukrainian cities such as Kharkiv, Lviv, Odessa and the capital, Kyiv. The organization is currently funding 200 partners while also providing bulk produce, dry goods and other ingredients as Ukraine’s supply chains have been disrupted. Many of these meals are supplied to refugee shelters within Ukraine (WCK maintains another center in Lviv), including a children’s school, a gym and a church turned bomb shelter.
Altogether, WCK and its partners are active at more than 1,000 distribution points in about 100 cities across Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Andrés’ native Spain. They are preparing approximately 250,000 meals each day (135,000 in Ukraine), serving up the likes of rolled pork with spinach, ramen, sesame chicken, sweet porridge, baby food and hot chocolate.
As Russian soldiers move away from north Ukraine and Kyiv, Andrés and WCK have been able to provide on-the-ground aid in the recently liberated cities Irpin and Bucha. Facing the potential threat of landmines, they brought 800 meals and 6,000 kilograms of food on just one day, and will be returning to both cities and to other communities nearby.
WCK has received significant recognition for its efforts; on April 3, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield thanked Andrés and his organization, then visited WCK-affiliated chefs the next day in Romania.
In addition to offering meals, WCK has been sharing the harrowing stories of those directly affected by Russia’s invasion via its website and social media.
Andrés founded WCK to respond to the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. The organization earned global attention for its 2017 work in Puerto Rico, where it served more than 4 million meals after Hurricane Maria. It expanded even more dramatically in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to feed frontline workers and struggling people around the world. (The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation donated $250,000 at that time to assist.)
Read more about other restaurant and wine industry efforts to help Ukraine here: