World Central Kitchen Responds to Statement by La Morada Restaurant

May 21, 2020
9:26 AM

Chef José Andrés cooking in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María in 201 (Photo by World Central Kitchen)

In response to a statement by La Morada Restaurant explaining why the South Bronx restaurant was breaking its relationship with World Central Kitchen (WCK), Latino Rebels received the the following statement on Thursday morning from WCK:

World Central Kitchen is aware of a statement released by a restaurant that was part of our Restaurants For The People program, in which we have paid over 1,200 restaurants and catering companies to produce meals for frontline workers, seniors and families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The assertions made in this statement are either a distortion of the truth, or simply not true at all. 

The central issue presented in the statement relates to a photograph showing Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officials visiting World Central Kitchen’s food relief operation in late September, 2017 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after the island had been hit by hurricane Maria. As part of its relief efforts in Puerto Rico, WCK worked with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. During times of disaster, FEMA works with other government agencies, including HSI, which was engaged in Puerto Rico to perform “wellness checks” of families in hard-hit areas of the island, many of which were cut off without electricity and communications. HSI simply took WCK sandwiches to distribute to communities in these areas, as did many local and state groups during the time WCK served 3.7 million meals in Puerto Rico. 

It is absolutely untrue that WCK works with ICE or supports its agenda. The only connection to ICE is that HSI falls under the jurisdiction of ICE within the Department of Homeland Security. But in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, HSI was under the direction of FEMA. More information on this can be read here: 

(Public Domain/FEMA)

WCK is an organization that uses the power of food to heal and strengthen communities through times of crisis and beyond, and our founder, José Andrés, is an immigrant himself and has long been a vocal advocate for immigrants and undocumented communities. Our current COVID-19 relief response, now more than ten weeks in, is providing millions of fresh, nourishing meals across the county to the nation’s most vulnerable people, including undocumented communities.

Responses to the other claims presented in the statement:

1) “WCK was sponsoring 250 meals, at $10 a plate, which barely covered the cost of ingredients.”

We disagree with this assessment. $10 per meal is a very fair price, which not only covers the cost of ingredients but also covers labor and other restaurant expenses. WCK has paid over 1,200 restaurants to produce meals for their communities, distributing over $18 million directly into the hands of restaurants across the United States.

2) “We noticed that WCK provided local, working class businesses less resources compared to other privileged restaurants”

This is not true. WCK is partnering with restaurants for the primary purpose of supporting them during this difficult time. We are actually prioritizing small, independent businesses and have no incentive to withhold any resources. 

3) “they had even more PPE resources that they were not sharing with our workers.”

This is not true. WCK has always provided as much PPE as possible to our partner restaurants. In past weeks, PPE has been scarce and may not have always been available, but we have worked hard to procure masks that we provide to our partner restaurants upon request. We would never withhold PPE, as the whole purpose of our Restaurants For The People program is to support those restaurants. 

4) “[WCK is] making way for a recovery that to them is founded on the displacement of working class and poor folk.”

This is not true. In fact, our Restaurants For The People program is designed to keep people employed during this challenging time. We want small, independent restaurants to stay open and not go out of business. We want hard-working individuals to keep receiving a paycheck so they can continue to support their families. That is the entire premise of the initiative. 

5) “WCK, in providing aid in Puerto Rico, had an easy-going relationship with police agencies, in this case ICE.” 

For the reasons stated above, this is not true. Under the direction of FEMA, which was managing the Hurricane Maria response in Puerto Rico, HSI was on the ground to perform wellness checks and simply distributed WCK sandwiches. WCK absolutely did not have an easy-going relationship with ICE.

6) “[WCK is] engaging in data gathering as well.”

This is not true. WCK requires no personal information from individuals when providing meals. We are currently distributing over 27,000 meals per day in The Bronx and collect no information on those receiving those meals.

While we fully respect the decision of La Morada to no longer work with WCK, we strongly deny the false claims it is making publicly about WCK.

We remain committed to working alongside the great people of The Bronx, and continue to serve tens of thousands of individuals who are now food insecure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.