Earlier this month, as many as 30,000 migrants attempted to cross the southern border into the United States. These mostly Haitian asylum-seekers set up shelters and tents under the Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, where they waited to either plead their cases to immigration judges, be deported to Haiti, or be forced to turn back into Mexico.
And, unsurprisingly, chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen quickly mobilized to provide hot meals — and baby food — to those who were staying in the makeshift camps under the bridge. Representatives for the nonprofit arrived in Texas in mid-September and contacted some of its restaurant partners to see what kind of meals could be assembled quickly. Koko’s Restaurant from McAllen, Texas responded by preparing “thousands of plates” of chicken, rice, and vegetables for distribution.
“There are tons of people. We’re coming in to assist and help with meals and to provide support,” World Central Kitchen chef Tim Kilcoyne said, soon after arriving in Del Rio. “Lots of people to feed, and as you can see, it’s a tough situation and everybody’s doing what they can. At the end of the day, everybody needs a plate of food and deserves a plate of food, so we’re here to support that.”
A photo isn’t enough to share the desperation in Del Rio, Texas right now. An estimated 14-16,000 people—85% Haitian—are living under the bridge, hoping to seek asylum. I joined the @WCKitchen team here today, as we begin to assist with meals. I’ve never seen anything like this. pic.twitter.com/AxlZvlpd4i
— Nate Mook (@natemook) September 20, 2021
According to the World Central Kitchen website, when their own relief trucks made it to the scene, they started serving hot lunches and dinners and handing out fresh fruit and bottles of water. Nate Mook, the organization’s CEO, also went to local grocery stores to buy literally thousands of squeezable packages of baby food to give to families with small children. “Sorry for cleaning out your shelves today, HEB,” he tweeted. “See you again tomorrow.”
Late night update from Del Rio, Texas: WCK’s @cheftkilcoyne is along the river behind the bridge encampment. We learned that hundreds of Haitian families were staying back here to avoid the heat—but that means they don’t always receive meals. So we brought dinner to them tonight! pic.twitter.com/onSCGoRr4y
— World Central Kitchen (@WCKitchen) September 23, 2021
The temporary camp was closed last Friday, and World Central Kitchen said that they served over 100,000 meals during their time on the ground there. “We brought our last hot meals this morning,” Mook said in a Twitter video. “We came early to make sure that families that were still here got a meal before they got on the buses and vans.”
As of this writing, both World Central Kitchen and Koko’s Restaurant are just on the other side of the border, serving meals in Ciudad Acuña and Piedras Negras. On Monday, they prepared 5,000 meals that were distributed among 17 different shelters in the two cities.
Huge bursts of lava all day yesterday but the volcano is “resting” this morning ..surface pressure is still very high so waiting for what’s next 🙏… @WCKitchen #ChefsForLaPalma volunteers are not resting and we continue to feed neighbors and first responders. #ErupcionLaPalma pic.twitter.com/F3hb9cr2T3
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) September 27, 2021
Chef Andrés was not in Texas last week; he is currently in La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, where a volcanic eruption has destroyed over 600 homes and forced thousands to evacuate. On Tuesday, Spain’s government officially declared the island a disaster zone. Andrés is leading a World Central Kitchen relief team, which is providing meals to evacuees, first responders, and emergency crews. “Our Relief Team is monitoring the situation and will continue to serve impacted communities as long as we are needed,” the organization wrote.