Chef José Andrés’ recipe for resilience. How people, partnerships, and persistence can help Puerto Rico prepare for future storms.
San Juan, Puerto Rico — After Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated Puerto Rico in the fall of 2017, first responders traveled quickly to the island to work hand-in-hand with local communities, providing medical treatment, helping those who had lost everything find shelter, and looking ahead to the rebuilding efforts.
But Chef José Andrés saw a different need: making sure that the victims were adequately fed and treated with dignity. Andrés’ organization, World Central Kitchen, has a simple mission at its heart: providing hearty, healthy meals to people in crisis. In Puerto Rico, it was sancocho – a local stew of meat and vegetables.
“When we need to take care of the health of people, who do we send? Doctors and nurses. When we need to rebuild homes, who do we send? Architects and engineers. Well, when we need to feed people, we should send cooks like me,” Andrés says. “At World Central Kitchen, we’re working to make sure that wherever there are hungry people, especially under very difficult circumstances, they have the dignity of a plate of hot food.”
“A key component of the effort in Puerto Rico is transitioning the island to more resilient agricultural practices.”DIANDRA HAYBAN
The Clinton Foundation began working with World Central Kitchen in 2010, as part of the rebuilding efforts in Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake there. In addition to its work in Puerto Rico, World Central Kitchen has also provided relief in the form of emergency food assistance to people all over the world, including hundreds of thousands of meals this year alone to the victims of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and refugees at the Venezuela-Colombia border.
In World Central Kitchen’s initiatives worldwide, Andrés is not only focused on existing problems but is also anticipating future challenges and dealing with them in the present by promoting clean energy and sustainability.
Photos from the field
Chef José Andrés, President and Secretary Clinton visit the Cosechas Tierra Viva farm in Las Piedras, run by Franco Marcano and Natalia Acevedo Aquino. The farm is a “smart-farm”, using technology to maximize output through innovation and technology.
A key component of the effort in Puerto Rico is transitioning the island to more resilient agricultural practices. Currently, more than 85% of Puerto Rico’s food comes from overseas, which not only drives up costs but also disrupts the food supply in the wake of natural disasters like the ones that occurred in 2017.
Through the Clinton Global Initiative Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery, World Central Kitchen made a Commitment to Action, “Plow to Plate,” which works with individual farmers so that the island’s food supply is more locally-sourced. This is just one of dozens of commitments that have been made by members of the Action Network since it was founded in the wake of Hurricanes Maria and Irma to help Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the wider Caribbean region rebuild and prepare for future storms.
The Cosechas Tierra Viva farm in Las Piedras, run by Franco Marcano and Natalia Acevedo Aquino, is one of more than 40 partner farms working with World Central Kitchen and is leading others to increase their output by using cutting-edge technology and innovation.
In January, Andrés took President Clinton and Secretary Clinton on a tour of the Medinas’ farm. “It’s rare that you can save the environment, create more economic opportunity, and lower the cost of food,” President Clinton noted during that visit.
“We are chefs for the people, so we help to make sure that [the farms we work with] become food independent, after hurricanes or well beyond,” Andrés says. “Food is the agent of change to give farmers like them a better future.”
The combined efforts of the Clinton Global Initiative and World Central Kitchen in Puerto Rico are just one example of the unique partnerships that form the backbone of the Clinton Foundation’s work to bring partners in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors together to rebuild for resilience and create lasting change.
Subscribe now to the Clinton Foundation’s podcast, Why Am I Telling You This?, to hear more from their conversation.