New York, Feb 26 (EFE).- Luis and Alex work from the Addictive Wine and Tapas Bar in New York preparing 250 trays of bolognese for health workers at the Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.
It is part of an initiative by Spanish chef Jose Andrés that provides a service for medical workers during the Covid-19 pandemic while doubling up as a business strategy to help restaurants weather the financial hit of coronavirus restrictions.
“If there is an emergency, those restaurants are closed, so what better way to put them to use than to serve those who need it,” Andrés tells Efe in an interview.
In the last month alone, the chef’s NGO World Central Kitchen has offered 16 public hospitals in New York some 30,000 meals per day for $6 to $8 per plate.
The initiative has $6 million of funding from the New York Department of Health and got up and running at the end of January. It comes to a close on Friday, coinciding with the tentative re-opening of the city’s hospitality scene.
Shuttered for months to stem the spread of Covid-19, New York eateries were on 12 February granted permission to open up their interiors to a limited number of customers.
Francisco Diez, the owner of the Addictive Wine and Tapas Bar, explains how the program became a lifeline for his business.
“During the pandemic, we closed on March 15. We closed completely because we did not have a take-out service, when people can pick the food up, since the concept of tapas (…) the beauty of it is to eat them at that moment because they come with bread,” he says.
Andrés points out that his NGO has provided over 40 million meals since it first sprang into action last February to feed passengers stuck on an ocean liner in the port of Yokohama in Japan.
“We have been meeting the needs of hospitals, nursing homes, the homeless, and poor neighborhoods, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when nobody knew how to respond,” Andrés.
In the United States alone, the NGO managed to coordinate with 3,000 restaurants and have “peaks of 300,000 to 350,000 meals a day. ”
The chef, who has repeatedly criticized the federal government’s response at the beginning of the pandemic, has spent months working with legislators from both the Republican and Democratic parties to enact emergency funding.
For Andrés, responses to crises of this magnitude should not depend “only on the generosity of some individuals or businesses that want to help on time. When there are emergencies, you have to be very organized, you have to professionalize the response.” EFE