José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, serving meals to quarantined passengers on cruise ships, feeding healthcare workers, and keeping restaurants in business. Now, WCK, along with Feeding America, are getting some heftier celebrity funding. Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs and Apple, and the Ford Foundation launched America’s Food Fund on GoFundMe to address the nation’s food access crisis. The Ford Foundation, DiCaprio, and Jobs started the fundraising with $12 million. Oprah also tweeted about the project, announcing she’s donating $1 million to the cause.
.@chefjoseandres and Claire Babineaux-Fontenot have teamed up with @LeoDiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs and @Apple to launch America’s Food Fund to help feed local communities. pic.twitter.com/O5hl9J8FDi— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) April 2, 2020
The fund exists to support the work WCK and Feeding America are already doing cooking and distributing meals to those affected by COVID-19. “As we continue to monitor and map food gaps, we will partner with additional organizations and businesses that are helping to meet the need,” says the organization’s GoFundMe. “We recognize this need is great and believe that nobody should be without food.”
Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, also outlined the looming hunger crisis: “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 37 million people in this country did not have consistent access to nutritious meals — including 11 million children and 5.5 million seniors. These numbers are quickly rising, and it is critical that we rally together as a nation to support our neighbors during this time of great need.”
Those numbers are already rocketing up. Last month, 10 million people applied for unemployment insurance. There has been massive demand, and thus massive shortages, at food banks across the country, and as the Guardian reports, “one in three people seeking groceries at not-for-profit pantries last month have never previously needed emergency food aid.” America’s Food Fund is clearly a needed project.
However, its existence also highlights just how short the government has fallen in providing relief. Though no one knows for sure how long the pandemic will last, the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order was extended until May 3, and the economic effects could stretch into next year. People will be needing food assistance for months to come, and those stimulus checks will not go far, especially once spread between rent (still without a freeze) and other bills.