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Food & Hunger

Chef José Andrés Shares How He Fed Puerto Rico in Riveting TED Talk

“You know I love to feed the few, but even more, I love to feed the many.” 

That’s how celebrity chef José Andrés began his powerful TED Talk about how he helped feed hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

After the storm barreled through Puerto Rico last fall, knocking down homes, telephone polls, and school buildings, the entire island of more than 3 million inhabitants was plunged into darkness. Hospitals had to run on generators, schools were closed, and internet and phone service was suspended. 

Take Action: Call on World Leaders to Help Millions of People Affected by Extreme Weather

On top of that, crops were devastated, especially in rural areas. For many of the island’s urban poor, electronic food stamps didn’t work at supermarkets — making food scarce for some of the island’s most vulnerable populations.

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While FEMA stepped up to fill some empty stomachs through emergency food and water rations, these resources didn’t find their way to some of the harder-to-reach areas until much later, NPR reports

Seeing this emerging crisis, Andrés sprang into action. On Sept. 25, he began to serve hot meals to some of the most vulnerable populations affected by the storm. By early October, he was serving more than 25,000 hot meals every day, the Washington Post reports. That number would rise to 70,000 hot meals per day, he said in his TED Talk.

“I had this sense of urgency to be there and to try to feed one person,” Andrés said. “[T]he urgency was right now, in this minute, in this second, and we almost had three million people that needed to be fed.” 

Read More: This Award-Winning Chef Is Serving Meals to Hungry Puerto Ricans Every Day

Andrés didn’t just serve any old menu items: His dishes ranged from paella to arroz de tripleta. His World Central Kitchen team also set up shop in remote regions like Utuado, in the southwestern mountains, and Culebra, a small island off the coast.

Soon, he wasn’t alone in this crusade. 

“I arrived to an island trying to feed a few people, and I saw a big problem, and all of a sudden, the people of Puerto Rico saw the same problem as me, and we did one thing: we began cooking,” he said. 

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You can watch the rest of the powerful TED Talk here