World Central Kitchen: A look at food charity founded by José Andrés after Gaza strike

For years, World Central Kitchen has provided freshly prepared meals to people in need around the world after natural disasters, like hurricanes or earthquakes, or for those enduring conflicts. 

The food charity, founded in 2010 by celebrity chef José Andrés, was forced to halt its operations in the Gaza Strip after an apparent Israeli strike killed seven of its workers on Monday – mostly foreigners.

World Central Kitchen has been bringing desperately-needed food to Gazans facing widespread hunger and pioneered the recently launched effort to deliver aid by sea to Gaza. The group said it will make decisions about longer-term plans in the region soon.

A view of the damaged vehicle carrying Western employees after the Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on April 2, 2024. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A view of the damaged vehicle carrying Western employees after the Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on April 2, 2024. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Its absence, even if temporary, is likely to deepen the war-torn territory's misery as the United Nations warns that famine is imminent.

Here's a look at the nonprofit’s work and what its absence in Gaza could mean:

What is World Central Kitchen? 

In addition to delivering fresh meals to people in war-torn areas and those facing natural disasters, World Central Kitchen has also provided meals to migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border, as well as to hospital staff who worked relentlessly during the coronavirus pandemic.

The aid group sends in teams who can cook meals that appeal to the local palate on a large scale and fast.

"When you talk about food and water, people don’t want a solution one week from now, one month from now. The solution has to be now," Andrés is quoted as saying on the group's website.

World Central Kitchen has worked in dozens of affected areas and currently has teams in Haiti, addressing the needs of Ukrainians displaced by Russia's invasion, as well as providing meals to people affected by the war in Gaza.

World Central Kitchen’s work during the war in Gaza

Teams from World Central Kitchen have fanned out across the region since Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7 and throughout the war that it sparked. 

It has fed Israelis displaced by the attack as well as former hostages, according to its website, and to people in Lebanon displaced by fighting with Israel. 

But its work in Gaza has been the most demanding.

In Gaza, the group says it has provided more than 43 million meals to Palestinians.

The food charity has set up two main kitchens in the southern city of Rafah and the central town of Deir al-Balah. It lends support to 68 community kitchens throughout the territory, serving more than 170,000 hot meals a day. The group ramped up its work during Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims traditionally fast from sunrise to sundown and then eat a lavish meal, distributing 92,000 food boxes or about 4.7 million meals.

The group has also provided meals through airdrops and has led two shipments by sea carrying hundreds of tons of food for northern Gaza, where the food emergency is at its most acute.

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Andrés credited the charity's sea deliveries with prompting the U.S. to declare that it would build a floating pier for aid delivered to Gaza by sea.

"I think this has been our achievement," he said.

With World Central Kitchen halting work, what will that mean for people in Gaza? 

With World Central Kitchen immediately suspending its work, tens of thousands of meals a day won’t be handed out.

Other aid organizations are still on the ground providing assistance to Palestinians, including the U.N. But aid groups say supplies are not coming in quickly enough and once they have entered Gaza, delivery is hobbled by logistical problems as well as the constant fighting. 

Israel denies there is a food shortage in Gaza and blames the U.N. and other aid groups for failing to scale up deliveries inside the territory.

World Central Kitchen was at the vanguard of the two sea shipments that have arrived in Gaza so far. It was not clear in what capacity the sea corridor would continue without the group, and the United States' planned floating pier will take time to get off the ground.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.