“So World Central Kitchen had to pivot its mission once again in the face of COVID-19. Can’t do a pop-up kitchen, can’t bring thousands of people together, so [the question was] how are we still [able to] get meals to those in vulnerable populations. José Andrés, being a restaurateur, really thought of entrepreneurs, people who were chefs, people who really took risks to cook for people and set up restaurants… And thought this is a perfect way to kickstart the economic engine of the restaurant industry,” outlined Tank Rodriguez, the project lead for a pilot program in Long Beach, California that re-activates closed restaurants and feeds at-risk seniors.
With rejuvenated energy and newfound focus, World Central Kitchen, the non-profit, non-governmental organization founded by world renowned chef, Jose Andres, set out to continue their mission to feed disaster areas globally. As recent guest on the Foodbeast podcast, The Katchup, Rodriguez outlined the encouraging and intimate details into an operation that was able to reactivate closed local restaurants and serve thousands of meals to at-risk seniors.
“In Long Beach, I heard a lot of people getting food to kids that weren’t getting them from school. — incredible work. People who were getting meals to women in shelters — incredible work. I didn’t hear about seniors, which is why I chose the senior population in Long Beach.”
It’s the city he holds two businesses in — a renowned tattoo parlor and a law firm — so the want to help resonated and propelled Rodriguez to go the lengths to make things work logistically and efficiently, all while properly feeding at-risk senior citizens, and restaurants that had to shut down during the pandemic. From him initially cold-calling hundreds of businesses to try and employ their participation to these participating businesses given the opportunity to hire back their staff and re-open to even UPS lending a helping hand by allowing Rodriguez and World Central Kitchen access to their trucks as a means of delivering the meals, details of what they’re doing in Long Beach shed light on uplifting acts of kindness that go above and beyond for their fellow person.
“I believe that things will come back. I believe in the American economy. I believe in the business models that we’ve set up… I don’t know what a month from now is going to look like, but I do know that today, we’re going to get people fed.”
Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup podcast: “#115: Jose Andres Is Re-Activating Restaurants To Feed Seniors,” out now on Spotify, the Apple Podcasts App, and most major platforms where podcasts are heard.