Pandemic Hunger Relief

An Inside Look at How World Central Kitchen Makes 500,000 Meals — and Counting

The organization’s chef relief team knocks out hunger 6 days a week at Nats Park in D.C.

Bonnie S. Benwick
Published in
18 min readJun 8, 2020
Top row left to right: World Central Kitchen chef Mollie Moore, contract chef Kristen Desmond, contract team leader Tim Linaberry, contract procurement specialist Jim Berman, contract team leader Vanessa Cominsky. Bottom row left to right: contract chef Amin Mina, WCK operations manager Elyssa Kaplan, contractor/managing chef Matt Adler, contract dishwasher Floyd Palmer, contract kitchen worker Meghann Long. These photos were taken while they were working at WCK’s Nationals Park operation in Washington, D.C. Photos: Deb Lindsey

Covid-19 hit America’s food system with the force of hurricanes, earthquakes, and a government shutdown combined — which happen to be disasters José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen have dealt with since 2017 — seven years after the supercharged chef-humanitarian founded WCK to end hunger worldwide.

The WCK goal is to provide a nourishing free meal to anyone humbled by such destruction. And as the need increases all around WCK HQ in Washington, D.C., the urgency and can-do attitude extend from Andrés’ staff and volunteers, from cooks to clean-up crew.

Pasta and meatballs, one of the reheatable meals assembled at World Central Kitchen’s Nationals Park operation.

In the more than 84 days since WCK’s Covid-19 hands-on response began in this country (and 80 days in Spain), Andrés’ organization has served more than 15 million meals. Astonishing, yet it hardly hints at what it takes to make that happen. Here’s another eye-opener: The chefs, contract crew, and volunteers at Nationals Park, home of the 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals, have produced more than 500,000 meals, or about 5 percent of the WCK total.

The chefs, contract crew, and volunteers at Nationals Park have produced more than 500,000 meals, or about 5 percent of that WCK total.

How have they managed? With fewer bodies than you might expect. With guts and goodwill. With the largess of the Lerner family, who donated the stadium’s use. (It’s the only U.S. sports facility playing host this way, and is WCK’s largest relief kitchen currently cooking.) They’ve done it by keeping standards high, constantly improving the process, and by activating a certain “spidey sense” that solves problems like how to supply the facility with enough hand sanitizer.

A lot happens during the course of a six-day workweek at the ballpark, where the WCK…



Bonnie S. Benwick
Writer for

I’m the former deputy editor/recipe editor of The Washington Post Food section. Find me on Instagram (bbenwick), and at