World Central Kitchen | COVID-19 Response

World Central Kitchen

Helping US cities provide immediate food relief during the pandemic while supporting local restaurants

An estimated 37 million Americans face hunger daily, World Central Kitchen has a bold plan to feed those in need, while providing relief for struggling small businesses during the pandemic.

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World Central Kitchen



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. 

Big Idea

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.           

Why will this succeed?

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.

Project Impact

Recent Updates

Washington Post Washington Post

Washington Post

José Andrés and his nonprofit aim to reopen hundreds of restaurants while feeding needy people

José Andrés and his nonprofit aim to reopen hundreds of restaurants while feeding needy people

World Central Kitchen and its high-profile founder, José Andrés, have launched a pilot program that will feed vulnerable communities across the country while also helping hundreds of restaurants by reopening their kitchens.

April 17, 2020
Tech CrunchTech Crunch

Tech Crunch

Bay Area effort to help restaurants feed hospital workers partners with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen

Bay Area effort to help restaurants feed hospital workers partners with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen

An effort I’ve been following in the Bay Area to deliver meals to front-line hospital clinicians dealing with the results of COVID-19 is announcing a big new partnership today that should give it a national stage. Frontline Foods is partnering up with World Central Kitchen to scale up its ad-hoc efforts across the US.

March 31, 2020

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