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Chef José Andrés’ charity World Central Kitchen to help feed Baltimore families starting Wednesday

Chef Liset Garcell prepares to give out free meals at the Red Rooster Restaurant in Miami earlier this month, in partnership with World Central Kitchen. World Central Kitchen is now distributing meals to families at 10 Baltimore City schools. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Chef Liset Garcell prepares to give out free meals at the Red Rooster Restaurant in Miami earlier this month, in partnership with World Central Kitchen. World Central Kitchen is now distributing meals to families at 10 Baltimore City schools. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)(Lynne Sladky/AP)

Baltimore families struggling to keep food on the table will get some help in the form of cheese lasagna, chicken tamales, and barbecue and baked beans from a nonprofit founded by a world-famous humanitarian chef.

World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, plans to distribute 20,000 free meals per week through 10 new Baltimore sites starting Wednesday in hopes of keeping families from going hungry during the coronavirus pandemic. The effort will complement the existing meal sites provided by Baltimore City Schools to keep kids, who relied on the system’s free meals, fed.

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“We know that Baltimore is a place where there’s going to be a lot of need,” said Nate Mook, CEO of World Central Kitchen and a former resident of Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood.

Maryland and Baltimore are continuing to see rising caseloads and deaths from the coronavirus. Children remain home from school and many workplaces are closed.

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“It’s a place that’s very vulnerable right now,” Mook said.

Baltimore joins dozens of American cities where World Central Kitchen is serving up a combined 175,000 meals a day, feeding hospital workers and community members who otherwise might not have access to fresh meals.

The famous chef will not be cooking the meals himself. Baltimore’s meals will be produced by Revolution Foods, a company that partners with World Central Kitchen.

World Central Kitchen is in talks with local restaurants to cook meals for Baltimore-area hospitals, a way to keep health workers fed while providing income to the restaurants, Mook said.

While public schools in Baltimore and elsewhere are doing “an incredible job” feeding children, there still are gaps, including access to food for adults, Mook said. Families will be able to take home enough meals for several days.

“Obviously, we’re in a situation where families are struggling all around,” Mook said.

Elizabeth Marchetta, the executive director of food and nutrition services for Baltimore’s school system, said her staff has seen a huge demand for adult meals at the 18 “grab and go” meal sites at schools. While the program is designed for children, the school system is not turning away adults — even though the city misses out in federal reimbursement for meals given to adults.

Having free meals from World Central Kitchen can help meet that adult demand for food, which is “growing tremendously,” she said.

Del. Brooke Lierman helped connect World Central Kitchen leaders with school system officials. She said she was inspired to reach out to World Central Kitchen after learning about the charity’s meal preparation operation at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Lierman said the prepared family meals will complement the other food options, including food banks, meals distributed by the city government and the school meals for kids.

“It’s important to provide different options at a variety of locations so that nobody falls through the cracks,” said Lierman, a Democrat.

Celebrity chef José Andrés
Celebrity chef José Andrés(The Washington Post / The Washington Post/Getty Images)

On Wednesdays, the meals from World Central Kitchen will be available at the following schools: Vanguard Collegiate Middle, 5000 Truesdale Ave.; Edgewood Elementary, 1900 Edgewood St.; Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle, 1101 Winston Ave.; Fort Washington Elementary/Middle, 2710 E. Hoffman St.; Baltimore Montessori Public Charter, 1600 Guilford Ave.

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On Fridays, meals will be available at the following schools: Henderson Hopkins, 2100 Ashland Ave.; Southwest Baltimore Charter, 1300 Herkimer St.; Harford Heights Elementary, 2050 N. Wolfe St.; and Sarah M. Roach Elementary, 3434 Old Frederick Road.

The sites operate from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., except for Henderson-Hopkins, which is open from noon until 2 p.m.

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