Culture

Why José Andrés Is Scaling Back His Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico

The chef is finally heading back to D.C.
José Andrés Leaving Puerto Rico
Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

After a month in Puerto Rico, José Andrés is finally heading home, The New York Times reports.

Since arriving on the island on September 25, the chef has become the face of American disaster relief, feeding more Puerto Ricans than any other organization, including the Red Cross. But now that more of the island's restaurants, stores and suppliers have reopened (allowing FEMA to offer more contracts), Andrés has finally decided to roll back his efforts.

The chef has closed down his main kitchen at the Coliseo in San Juan, where volunteers made up to "30,000 ham and cheese sandwiches a day and giant paella pans boiled with rice and sausage every morning." He's also beginning to close down some of the 18 other satellite kitchens that operated under his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen; the remaining resources will begin focusing on feeding elderly, sick and more remote populations. For Andrés, scaling back ensures he's not taking any profits away from the many grocery stores that have reopened since Hurricane Maria. "An NGO has no right taking money away from business," he tells The Times.

According to the article, at its peak, World Central Kitchen cost $400,000 a day to operate, which covered transportation and accommodation for chefs and staff members, rent for venues and commercial kitchens, and the additional funds needed to reach the isolated areas that previously didn't have any support.

But just because the chef is scaling back doesn't mean he's disappearing completely: World Central Kitchen recently signed a $10 million contract with FEMA (who Andrés was critical of the first weeks after the hurricane) to make 120,000 meals a day for an additional two weeks.

"FEMA has told me many times they feel they have this under control. I am going to help keep them to that promise. We are all here covering each others' backs."

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