CHICAGO (CBS) — In the wake of disasters like hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, celebrity chef Jose Andres has been on the front lines – feeding the people left homeless with gourmet meals he cooks himself.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing crisis, it is no different in Chicago. Andres’ organization, World Central Kitchen, is feeding local school kids and nurses in need.
CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar visited the food line Thursday night.
Restaurant kitchens are quiet, and jobs have been lost. But through the World Central Kitchen, some restaurants in Chicago have a new life and a new purpose.
They are able to bring back some jobs and provide meals for those who so desperately need them.
At Barrio Chicago, 65 W. Kinzie St., the tables are empty just like they are everywhere else in River North, and throughout Chicago and well beyond.
But an uplifting beat was heard from the kitchen there despite those abandoned tables, lack of paying customers, and employee furloughs.
They were prepping 500 meals in that kitchen Thursday night.
“We were able to bring some staff members back that were on furlough,” said DineAmic Hospitality co-owner David Rekhson.
Rekhson has found a way to keep some his staff employed, and do some good at the same time. Enter Chef Andres and his World Central Kitchen.
“This is people that are really hungry. It’s not like they want a free meal to save, no. They have nothing to save,” he said.
The World Central Kitchen is responding to disasters all over the world with meals for those in need, and Chicago is hungry.
Those 500 boxed meals from Barrio are available to anyone who needs some food.
“Before the pandemic there was, you know, food insecurities,” said volunteer Howard Bailey.
The pickup on Thursday was for the Montessori School of Englewood.
“Some families are not able to have access to food and stuff like that,” said Alisha Gavin, who picked up food.
“There are a lot of people around here that are kind of homeless,” said Shawn Spencer, who also picked up food. “They aren’t getting the proper care for themselves.”
Part of the program also involves giving back on the South Side.
“We started thinking, who else is working; who else needs food right now?” Rekhson said.
World Central Kitchen and DineAmic have also fed healthcare workers across Chicago fighting the battle against COVID-19.
Back on the South Side, it’s moms who could use a break from the kitchen like Gavin.
“It helps a lot. It helps a lot,” she said
And Spencer now knows his seven kids are fed..
“It’s needed a lot, because there’s people that ain’t got nothing,” he said.
Feeding bellies, creating jobs – the idea is simple, the impact filing.
“Everybody is really happy to give back,” Rekhson said. “Everybody wants to do it. Everybody wants to do their part.”
World Central Kitchen has already served more than a million meals across the country, and it is clear the need to provide food during this pandemic is still there.