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José Andrés and Team Will Feed Puerto Rico Through Christmas

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The chef says there’s still a lot of work to be done

José Andrés in Puerto Rico
Photo: José Andrés / Facebook

José Andrés is back in Puerto Rico, and it’s like he never left. The chef, whose nonprofit World Central Kitchen became the island’s primary food source in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, spent the weekend checking in on the nonprofit’s kitchens across the island, and took to Twitter to highlight the ongoing need in Puerto Rico, even amid progress.

Last month, Andrés announced that World Central Kitchen would begin to wind down operations, but today, he confirms that the organization will feed people at least through Christmas. Lately, World Central Kitchen has focused its efforts on remote areas and harder-hit communities — those that, according to Andrés, aren’t receiving much aid from other groups.

The strategy has paid off. Last week, World Central Kitchen’s kitchen on Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico, served its 20,000th meal. And today, from the World Central Kitchen in Ponce, Andrés praised chef Ventura Vivoni for cooking more than 36,000 meals for “the often forgotten center of the island.”

Andrés also notes that restaurants have started to reopen. He stopped at a roadside stand outside San Juan for a lunch of arroz con jueyes (rice with crab).

But, it’s not all good news from Puerto Rico. Andrés points out that even as businesses reopen, there are still downed power lines in the center of San Juan. As World Central Kitchen announced last month, it will focus on particularly vulnerable groups in Puerto Rico, like the elderly, in addition to remote areas. For this population, the ongoing lack of power is a especially problematic.

From outside Ryder Home for the Elderly in Humacao, a municipality on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, Andrés explains exactly why World Central Kitchen is so needed. According to the chef, certain buildings don’t allow gas, meaning the stoves must run on electricity. And although these buildings have generators, they only provide enough electricity for elevators and some light, making cooking hot meals impossible. “The problem is real,” he says. “That is why we are bringing food to these people.”

@chefjoseandres [Twitter]

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