How to Help Ukraine: Support Chefs Like José Andrés, Feeding Refugees
As hundreds of thousands of refugee families continue to spill over the border from Ukraine to Poland, Chef José Andrés, a Spanish American chef, humanitarian, and restaurateur figured out how to help. He went to the border, intent on helping feed the families, and ended up leading a group of local Polish chefs and volunteers who have coordinated efforts to make meals. They found a huge outpouring of support for hungry refugees trying to figure out their next step in a life upended by war, unsure whether they would ever return home again.
Food is the first need on a long list of essentials for those who have fled the Russian invasion, and as a chef, Andrés explained that he could not just sit back and watch the carnage without doing something. “People of the World… Like you, I am distraught watching Ukraine under attack,” Andrés, 52, captioned a recent video on Twitter. “We must come together as a force for good!”
Feeding the refugees
Andrés set off for Poland and coordinated efforts with other chefs through his non-profit organization, World Central Kitchen (WCK), “committing support” from the $100 million Jeff Bezos grant he won in 2021 for his humanitarian work around the world. NBC caught up with Chef Andrés in Poland where he explained the extent of the humanitarian efforts.
Andrés posted footage of himself and others serving dinner at the Ukrainian border. At that site alone, Andrés estimated that WCK had served more than 8,000 meals. Working with other chefs and volunteers they have served soup, stew, and apple pie, and are now expanding to hand out food boxes for families and those who are staying behind to fight.
Andrés describes in his social posts how volunteers and local chefs are working with NGOs and others to provide service and relief to help Ukrainian refugees. "I am in awe by what I am seeing," he told NBC news.
Andres has made it part of his life's work to help people in need around the world. He says that as many people are leaving Ukraine, "You also see people going back. Often you see men drive their families to the border, kiss and hug them goodbye, and then return to their hometown to fight and defend their country." He was emotionally struck by all the community activism to feed and help these families and support the effort to keep kids safe and fed.
WCK said it partnered with Caritas nuns to serve food to refugee families, providing some 4,000 meals in about 18 hours to people in Medyka, Poland. Since then he has ramped up and the Chefs for Ukraine are serving tens of thousands of meals a day and supplying boxes of food to those in need.
Food Fighters in Basements
He is still posting about the chefs and helpers who are making about 10,000 meals a day, serving families who are sheltering in basements and bomb shelters. They call themselves Chefs for Ukraine and also Food Fighters since they feed those who remained in place to fight and defend their country from Russian invaders.
The Food Fighters concentrate on helping in areas where families shelter in bomb shelters, including one called "Miracles" where they serve meals and give out food boxes to families waiting to leave or hunkering down in the city until the conflict stops.
To add support to this effort, you can visit WCK.org and donate to ChefsForUkraine. Follow the work of José Andrés on Instagram where he has over 800,000 followers. If you want to support UN efforts to feed Ukrainian refugees, donate to the UN World Food Program. Just $75 can provide a family with an emergency box containing enough food for an entire month.
For more on the work of innovative chefs check out The Beet's celebrity guest chef column and find plant-based recipe ideas that you can make in your own home.