Chef José Andrés Sets Up World Central Kitchen Pop-Ups To Feed Refugees Fleeing From Ukraine

3 Mins Read

Good Meat board member and plant-forward chef José Andrés has mobilised his non-profit World Central Kitchen (WCK) platform. Setting up on the Ukraine-Poland border, the organisation is primed to make and distribute countless meals to refugees escaping the Russian bombardment. 

The Spanish-American chef is notoriously outspoken about human rights issues. WCK was founded on the premise of providing aid through food because “food is a universal human right” according to the chef. In 2021, Andrés received $100 million from Jeff Bezos’ Courage and Civility Award and he called it the start of a new chapter for his philanthropic ambitions. 

Chef José Andrés. Photo by Think Food Group.

Standing with Ukraine

February 24 saw Russia invade Ukraine in a large-scale military operation. It came after weeks of denials from Russian leader Vladimir Putin that he was planning to launch an attack. Since that day, more than one million Ukrainian citizens have fled their homes for the Polish border. Many arrive after days spent travelling with no food. The majority of refugees are women and children, with all men aged 18-60 required, by Ukrainian law, to stay and fight for their country.

WCK identified an impending food crisis and has set up multiple food preparation points. A 24-hour pedestrian border crossing point in southern Poland played host to a hot food service point within hours of the invasion beginning. Today, Andrés’ team is in position at more than eight border crossings. It has partnered with restaurants in Ukraine as well, with courageous chefs setting up in five cities. Odessa and Lviv are included. Yourz Space Bistro is a restaurant in Odessa that has opened its doors to WCK. Meals are being made for those left within the city and the two will attempt to scale up, if possible.

Food distribution points have been initiated at refugee accommodation centres. The Oh My Ramen food truck is on hand as a partner. The collaboration is made more poignant by the fact that Sasha and Vitalik from Oh my Ramen are both originally from Ukraine, but now live in Poland. They drove four hours to help serve food to their countrymen.

Widespread support

As refugees continue to flee and fighting escalates, talk of Russian troops invading other neighbouring countries has begun. With this in mind, WCK has set up positions in Romania and Moldova, with Slovakia and Hungary soon to be included. The organisation has pledged to be on hand to provide nutritious food to as many innocent civilians as possible.

“Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people may eat, we will be there – we must be there,” Reads the mission statement. WCK responds to world crises and aims to be one of the first on the frontlines to support. The effort to bring food to people fleeing the Russian invasion is the latest in a long list of reactive mobilisations.

Partnering with GOOD Meat

In December last year, it was announced that Andrés had joined the GOOD Meat board of directors. He has pledged to serve Eat Just’s flagship brand’s cultivated chicken in one of his U.S. restaurants when approval is granted. He identified cultivated meat as an opportunity to undermine increasing food insecurity. “We need to innovate to adapt our food to a planet in crisis. We need to create meals that feed the people at the same time as we sustain our communities and environment. I’m proud to join the GOOD Meat team in that mission, as a board member and as a cook,” he said in a statement.


Lead phto by World Central Kitchen.

human rightshumanitarian crisisUkraine