The World Central Kitchen is an incredible nonprofit organization that was one of the first to provide support to Ukrainians affected by the war. Today we shine a spotlight on WCK and the organization’s 4,300+ team members making an impact on the front lines in Ukraine.
Founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés, World Central Kitchen (WCK) is first to the frontlines when disaster strikes, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises while working to build resilient food systems with locally led solutions. Since its founding, WCK has served millions of fresh meals to people impacted by natural disasters and other crises around the world. And as soon as the war in Ukraine broke out, WCK was among the first humanitarian aid organizations to respond, mobilizing a massive team to provide immediate support to Ukrainian refugees.
When Russia brutally attacked Ukraine on February 24, 2022, millions of Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes to find a safe haven in other cities or countries, and many of them made their way to the Polish-Ukrainian border. Ukrainian families, mostly women with children and elderly family members, traveled for days without food. When they finally arrived, WCK was already there with fresh meals. World Central Kitchen mobilized its team to provide hot meals to refugee families on the Poland-Ukraine border just 24 hours after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. WCK teams soon began operating 24/7 at all border crossings in neighboring countries. At the same time, WCK reached out to chefs in Ukraine to support the effort. They started with a handful of restaurants that grew to hundreds of kitchens that now prepare hundreds of thousands of daily fresh meals to Ukrainians across the country.
In three short months, WCK has established a country-wide logistics network that includes dozens of warehouses and a cargo railway hub, where they fill train wagons with food every day and dispatch them to cities across the country. Regional WCK teams receive this food at local warehouses and oversee deliveries to thousands of community locations.
WCK’s #ChefsForUkraine team is also working to provide long-term support; for example, WCK has implemented a meal voucher program in Lviv, where temporary homes have been built for refugee families. These families are provided vouchers that can be used at a nearby cafeteria to receive a free meal at any time – and they can choose the food they want. WCK is not only giving families more control of their food, but also infusing money into the local economy. They are expanding this program to more locations across Ukraine.
WCK’s work is astounding in term of the speed and scale-up of its operations in only 3 months time. On May 16, 2022, WCK announced on its website that the organization has built the largest food relief operation in Ukraine, reaching more than 230 cities and towns, and the organization has also achieved the following milestones:
- Combined with seven other countries they are still cooking in daily, WCK has now served 25 million meals across Ukraine.
- Across Ukraine, WCK teams have distributed nearly 11 million pounds of food including flour, salt, pasta, oil, cheese, produce, canned meats, and more!
Almost every day there’s a new crisis in Ukraine and WCK is quick to respond. Here are some examples of the many stories that WCK has shared on its website and through social media about the organization’s positive impact on the ground:
- Trostyanets, a city east of Kyiv was decimated by attacks before it was liberated and left with critical food needs. WCK set up an outdoor cafe that is cooking and providing fresh fruit every day for residents that remained during the fighting and those families returning to the city.
- In nearby Kharkiv, a WCK restaurant partner opened up to provide a space for families to share meals together after being trapped under occupation for two months.
These are just a couple of examples of the amazing work of the World Central Kitchen. Learn more about WCK’s work in Ukraine – and stories of their successes on the ground.