Renowned chef José Andrés and his nonprofit have served millions of free meals to needy Americans after such natural disasters as Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires.
They tackled a new kind of crisis this month in cities across the United States, feeding federal government workers who were furloughed or working without pay during the 35-day partial shutdown.
And though the shutdown ended Friday with a deal that funds affected departments through February 15, Andres announced that his team at World Central Kitchen will continue to provide meals through next week since employees still haven’t seen a paycheck.
“We will … keep cooking hot meals for the next week so that everyone has time to get paid!” Andres tweeted Friday.
The #ChefsForFeds campaign opened a kitchen and café this month near the White House, then soon expanded to 12 states and Puerto Rico. The effort also offers to-go meals for families, plus essentials like diapers, pet food and cat litter.
“We believe that no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children,” the chef said in a video announcing the endeavor.
Plenty of people took the help. Andrés’ team on Wednesday served 11,400 hot meals, organizers tweeted.
‘We’re going to be watching what happens’
Andrés grew up in Spain and found fame as a chef in Washington, where his tapas restaurant, Jaleo, opened in the early 1990s and spawned a mini-empire of eateries across the city and the country.
When the shutdown began last month, he promised free sandwiches at any of his restaurants to federal employees. That vow quickly spawned the pop-up project.
And if the government shuts down again in three weeks, Andrés said he’ll be back with more food.
“Obviously we’re going to be watching what happens during these next few weeks,” Andrés said Friday. “If for some reason things go wrong again, we will be there for them.”
The chef also called on leaders to reach a permanent solution.
“Now, we need our politicians to show us why we put them in power,” he said. “They need to lead us.”