Story and Photos by Víctor Almazán
In “The Grapes of Wrath,” Tom Joad says to his mother: “Whenever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.” These were the words that chef José Andrés took as a reference to establish the mission of the Washington DC-based non-profit organization World Central Kitchen. Now, Tom Joad returns to Steinbeck’s land to deliver food.
As part of its “Restaurants for the People” program, Andres’ WCK has joined forces with a group of local restaurants and the United Farmworkers to provide 2,000 meals each week to residents of South Monterey County.
“They (WCK) called us and asked us if we were interested in making 400 meals a week, and we accepted”, said Raúl Rodríguez, manager of The Plaza Bakery, one of the restaurants participating in the program.
Founded 10 years ago, WCK “uses the power of food to heal and strengthen communities through times of crisis and beyond,” according to a description of the organization on its website. It acquired special relevance in Puerto Rico by providing food to those affected by the Hurricane María three years ago. WCK has food distribution programs in several countries in the world. To finance its activities, WCK receives donations from the general public and personalities of the entertainment industry, such as Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show. Colbert published the illustrated book “Whose Boat Is This Boat? Comments that don’t help in the aftermath of a hurricane,” with quotes from president Donald Trump in the wake of Hurricane Florence to fundraise specifically for the nonprofit. Another celebrity helping get funds for WCK is Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, who auctions his drawings on eBay and allocates the money to the humanitarian organization.
WCK created the program Restaurants for the People as part of efforts to alleviate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The program seeks to tackle the crisis on two fronts, providing fresh food to the population that needs it, while keeping open small restaurants and food businesses that were affected.
“We were struggling. Our clientele was reduced by between 20 and 30 percent.” Rodríguez said, referring to the crisis originating from the pandemic. He said that the WCK program helps keep people employed. “We had people working part time. Now we have them working full time. The WCK program’s goal is to help the community with food, but it also helps businesses that are suffering. ”
On May 26, a group of UFW members distributed 3,000 meals to people who lined up at Patriot Park in Greenfield. The union reported that due to the demand, the number of meals offered was increased from 2,000 to 3,000.
People were required to follow the protocols of social distancing and the use of face masks. A large number of families lined up in their cars on the side of the park, and at 5 p.m.. entered the parking lot where tables were set up with food. Drivers stopped at the side of the table and picked up the bags with freshly prepared dishes.
“The menu depends on the restaurant that prepared the dish,” said Eva García, office manager of the UFW in Salinas. “There are six restaurants on the Central Coast participating.”
Lorenzo de Jesús, an agricultural worker residing in Greenfield, received dishes consisting of chile verde, rice and beans. The bags also included plastic utensils and napkins. “You come tired from work and at least you can have food,” he said.
De Jesús, who works picking peas, said his work week was reduced from five to three days, so he is now earning less money. “This is a good help for the family,” he said.
The program will continue for another six weeks, on Tuesdays at 5 p.m at Patriot Park, 1351 Oak Ave., in Greenfield.
To donate to WCK
To bid for Mike Mignola’s drawings
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