Chef José Andrés says US needs the ‘political will’ to end the hunger crisis

Chef José Andrés, who has spent much of 2020 feeding people on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic, called the United States government’s inability to prevent millions of Americans from going hungry a “natural disaster.”

“This is a natural disaster,” Andrés said when asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper why the government isn’t doing more to help with food insecurity in the US.

“I think the federal government has been missing in action with many announcements of things that they look good on paper, but that then, when you go on the ground, you see that things are not working,” he said. “One way to feed the hungry is making sure that we make the political will. We need to redefine what it means to take care of Americans.”

The interview was part of the “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.” Andrés is currently on the Colombian island of San Andrés working with his non-profit, World Central Kitchen, to feed survivors of Hurricane Iota, the final named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season — and also the year’s strongest.

Why this chef keeps showing up at disaster zones
Why this chef keeps showing up at disaster zones
Over the past few years, the award-winning chef has responded to several major crises. After an earthquake devastated Haiti, Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, wildfires scorched Southern California, and a refugee crisis intensified on the Venezuelan border, he quickly mobilized volunteer chefs in each of those spots to prepare meals for thousands of people in need.

Now, during the global coronavirus pandemic, Andrés has been leading the charge to provide food relief to the elderly, those suddenly without work and frontline health care and essential workers.

‘We must do better’
The Covid-19 crisis posed a monumental challenge for World Central Kitchen, Andrés said.

He recounted the early days of the pandemic, when the organization helped feed the passengers and crew quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Yokohoma, Japan. Nearly half of the people on board eventually tested positive for the virus.

“Before we knew, the same thing was happening in Oakland, California,” he said.

In April, the organization assembled another chef relief team to feed passengers and crew quarantined aboard a cruise ship in Oakland.

As the pandemic spread, Andrés ramped up food relief efforts to also help the many families now struggling to put food on the table. He said World Central Kitchen found a flood of people arriving in food lines for the first time in their lives.

“They are having a hard time, because they lost their job, because they, for different reasons, they are not able to get unemployment, or they never got the unemployment,” he said. “This, to a degree, is wrong, (this) shouldn’t be the American way. We can do better. We must do better.

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