What World Central Kitchen does and why the attack killing 7 volunteers in Gaza matters

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World Central Kitchen caters catastrophes.

An international relief organization that provides sustenance to both victims and first responders at humanitarian disasters around the world, the group was thrust unwillingly into a tragic spotlight Monday when seven of its aid workers operating in Gaza were killed by an Israeli airstrike.

The victims included a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, as well as team members from Poland, Britain and Australia, and a Palestinian driver.

Calling the victims “angels,” Spanish American celebrity chef and WCK founder José Andrés called on the Israeli government to “stop this indiscriminate killing.”

In the wake of the deadly attack, WCK suspended operations at the 68 “community kitchens” it had been operating in Gaza for the last six months. The group says it has provided more than 43 million meals to Palestinians during that time.

A man carries a cardboard box of food aid provided by World Central Kitchen in Rafah, Gaza
A man in Rafah, Gaza, carries a box of food aid last month provided by the World Central Kitchen.Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images file

Prior to the deadly attack, WCK was one of the chief suppliers of food to embattled Gaza.

In a March 29 update, the U.S.-based nonprofit group said that it had dispatched 1,700 trucks packed with food and cooking equipment to its community kitchens and that more trucks laden with badly needed supplies were trickling into Gaza through the Rafah Crossing.

WCK said it had also enlisted the help of the Jordanian air force to drop food into Gaza, especially the remoter areas that the truck convoys cannot reach.

And just last month, WCK took the audacious step of building a jetty out of rubble to enable supply ships to deliver aid to Gaza from Cyprus.

The New York Times reported that the WCK did so after getting the OK from the Israeli military.

“WCK is not pushing a political agenda and we are not replacing any of the other organizations in Gaza, despite reporting and claims suggesting otherwise,” the organization insisted.

Monday was not the first time WCK workers have come under fire. Last year, four staffers were wounded when the kitchen they set up in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv was hit by a Russian missile.

Founded in 2010, the charity’s credo is spelled out on its website:

“Food is essential to life every single day, all over the world — and it is more important than ever in a crisis. Not only is a thoughtful, freshly prepared meal one less thing someone has to worry about in the wake of a disaster, it is a reminder that you are not alone.”

Andrés and his wife, Patricia, put those words into action for the first time in 2010, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Haiti that left thousands dead and tens of thousands more starving.

 José Andrés unloads humanitarian food packages from World Central Kitchen, in Kherson, Ukraine, on Nov. 15, 2022.
José Andrés unloads humanitarian food packages from World Central Kitchen, in Kherson, Ukraine, on Nov. 15, 2022. Efrem Lukatsky / AP file

Working with local chefs and food providers, Andrés’ team set up kitchens across the ravaged country where they prepared and served Haitian “comfort food,” like black beans in a creamy sauce.

Since then, WCK has organized food relief operations in the wake of disasters — both human-made and natural — in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Zambia, Peru, Cuba, Uganda, the Bahamas, Cambodia as well as Ukraine.

WCK made its U.S. debut in August 2017 by working with the American Red Cross to provide thousands of meals to survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

The next month, WCK led some of the disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. And later that year, WCK was in Southern California providing food to firefighters and families displaced by the massive Thomas Fire.

During the pandemic, WCK also set up soup kitchens in New York City, New Jersey and Washington D.C.

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