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A refugee child in Ukraine gets dinner. Photo by World Central Kitchen

Longer Tables: When Food Becomes Hope

Abby Zimet

Because the world is too much with us, today we choose to celebrate humanitarian, hero, mensch and chef José Andrés, who with his extraordinary World Central Kitchen has now served over 100 million meals to besieged Ukrainians - in bunkers, at the border, in their often remote, rubble-strewn homes. With its mindless, pointed destruction of ports, borders and food supply chains, Andrés charges, Putin's war of hubris has also quickly become "a war on food." In response, WCK has created the largest humanitarian effort in Ukraine, with an "army of goodness" - thousands of volunteer food-fighters both local and international - producing over 300,000 meals a day at 350 kitchens across Ukraine. The Chefs for Ukraine run a three-pronged operation: feeding refugees in the neighboring countries to which many Ukrainian women and children have fled - Poland,  Hungary, Slovakia - activating hundreds of kitchens in towns inside the war-torn country to feed those who remain, and stockpiling and transporting food so communities can cook for themselves. In the process,  Andrés declared marking his 100 millionth meal served, they are "lifting up people - all of a sudden, food becomes hope." The road can be rough: On Easter, one of their kitchens was destroyed by a missile, with several injuries; Andrés appeared in a video, alternately grim and hopeful, to note, "The best of humanity shows up amidst the worst of humanity." Still, for him the fight is always through food. "We do the only thing we know," he says. "Food is only a bandaid, but a plate of food is also sometimes the beginning of a better tomorrow." Hope against hope. Send these people some money, and give this man a Nobel Peace Prize already.


Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

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