Founded in 2010 in response to the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, World Central Kitchen has grown over the ensuing decade and gained a reputation for feeding large numbers of people in desperate, disastrous situations. The organization's success has transformed its founder and leader, Jose Andres, from a celebrity chef into a globally recognizable activist.
When the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep the U.S., World Central Kitchen responded quickly, setting up meal distribution centers in cities across the country. In Georgia, the WCK operations team leader is Ackeem Evans, a Georgia State University graduate who first made contact with the WCK during his Peace Corps post in Albania. In late 2019, an earthquake struck the Balkan country causing widespread damage that left more than 50 people dead and 3,000 injured. Evans volunteered with WCK as the organization provided meals to those affected by the earthquake.
“When I came back to Atlanta after my time in Albania, I reached out to WCK right away,” said Evans. He secured a job with the nonprofit just as the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down businesses and dragging the economy to a standstill.
Evans’ job involves coordinating the deployment of WCK funds to local organizations and restaurants that are able to provide meals to underserved communities. “I don’t actually handle money directly,” said Evans. Instead, he evaluates potential partners, checks in on their operations and helps solve operational issues. He’s able to juggle his responsibilities and communication with stakeholders thanks to enterprise-grade technology like Airtable, an organizational tool that combines database management, project management, workflow organization and more.
The Georgia organizations that WCK supports include ICNA Relief Atlanta, Compassion Kitchen, Atlanta Partners for Home, St. Mary's Hospital Athens, the Salvation Army and MARTA Army, among others. WCK also works through local restaurants, including Empire State South, Eugene Kitchen, Cold Beer, Sweet Auburn Seafood and Taqueria la Parilla in Atlanta as well as 5&10 in Athens. WCK pays these restaurants and commissary kitchens to cook and package large numbers of meals which are then distributed for free to vulnerable communities previously identified by the organization. In Athens, chef Hugh Acheson's 5&10 has been delivering nutritious meals to elderly communities thanks to funds from WCK.
In the two months that WCK has been involved in feeding people in Georgia, it has distributed more than 65,000 meals in the metro Atlanta and Athens areas, according to Tim Kilcoyne, director of chef operations at WCK. The organization has supported nine local restaurants that have been able to rehire nearly 100 employees to help with food preparation and delivery. Kilcoyne’s work has focused on the pandemic since early in the year. “Actually, in early February, we flew out to Tokyo, Japan to feed people and get meals onto the quarantine cruise off the coast of Yokohama,” he said.
“Obviously, the pandemic is very different because it’s everywhere,” said Kilcoyne. “We had to think on our feet and figure out the best solutions to be as effective and helpful and useful as possible.”
Learn more about World Central Kitchen at wck.org.
More good food deeds:
Alpharetta restaurant Chiringa will be donating 25% of proceeds from online orders placed during the month of June to Bert's Big Adventure, a local nonprofit that provides year-round support to children with chronic and terminal illnesses. The restaurant's full menu is available online, including cocktails, with every order contributing to Bert's Big Adventure. The charitable cause started by radio host Bert Weiss is known for providing all-expenses-paid trips to Walt Disney World for terminally ill children and their parents. To order from Chiringa, visit chiringa.com. To directly support Bert's Big Adventure, visit bertsbigadventure.org.
ICNA Relief (Islamic Circle of North America), a World Central Kitchen partner, will distribute fresh produce to 1,000 families a week for six weeks. The program, which began May 28 and continues through July 3, will be providing packages of fresh fruits and vegetables to local families from the USDA Farmers to Families program. Distributions are scheduled Thursdays between 3-6 p.m. at Masjid Al-Momineen in Clarkston as well as Fridays from 6-7 p.m. at Moores Mill Village Apartments. According to a statement from ICNA Relief, its local food pantry requests have nearly tripled due to layoffs or other circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic. For more information or to donate, visit icnarelief.org.