Food aid for Ukraine families: more than 70 restaurants in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines raise funds to support NGO
- NGO World Central Kitchen is committed to raising and spending US$10 million a month to supply food to help families in Ukraine through a harsh winter
- Its founder asked a Hong Kong marketing veteran for help, and she soon signed up 70-plus restaurants in the city, Singapore and Philippines to fund the mission
“There was no time for formalities,” says Cathy Feliciano-Chon, the founder of marketing consultancy CatchOn & Company. She’s referring to a frenzied two weeks when the team behind World Central Kitchen – the charitable organisation established by chef Jose Andres to provide immediate food relief for disaster-struck areas around the world – reached out to her “in a panic”.
For the past eight months, Andres’ organisation has been stationed in war-torn Ukraine, providing hot meals for those who have had their homes destroyed or left without power.
It has also distributed more than 20,000 food kits (which can feed a household for four days) to those who are still able to prepare meals in their own homes.
As of early November, the team – working with local cooks and available partner kitchens – has contributed more than 44 million meals, with the bulk going to those in the Kharkiv and Kyiv regions.
Its work, as well as that of other non-governmental organisations, is crucial as Ukraine endures a chilling winter, with Russian attacks on the country’s energy infrastructure leaving many civilians without gas, water and electricity as temperatures drop.
World Central Kitchen says it is committed to remaining in Ukraine during this harshest of periods – at least until March 2023 – and is looking to sustain the scale of its operations by raising and spending at least US$10 million a month.
That’s where Chon came in.
As one of the best-connected marketing professionals in Hong Kong, specialising in hospitality, she rapidly mobilised her team to rally restaurateurs and chefs to participate in a massive awareness campaign and fundraising drive for World Central Kitchen’s efforts in Ukraine.
“The question was, how can we do this in a hurry? What can we turn around very quickly?” she says.
Together with her counterparts in Asia – Eat Public Relations in Manila and The Ate Group in Singapore – Chon has pulled together more than 70 restaurants in three cities who will commit to fundraising for World Central Kitchen this winter, by donating a percentage of proceeds from every bill during a specific time, or making a lump-sum contribution.
“I have to give credit to all the chefs and restaurants who, without hesitation, just said yes,” says Chon, adding that restaurateurs Yenn Wong of JIA Group and Elizabeth Chu of ZS Hospitality – two of the leading hospitality groups in Hong Kong – mobilised their teams to participate almost immediately.
“What [World Central Kitchen is] doing is so meaningful and so difficult,” says Wong, whose 10 restaurants, including Estro, Duddell’s and Chachawan, will either be donating five to 10 per cent of their food revenue on December 20 or making direct contributions. “I think the least we can do is just to support every little bit we can, especially when we are in the business of food.”
Chu shares similar sentiments. “Working in the [food and beverage] industry, I am always mindful that food is a reflection of culture that transcends geographical and territorial differences,” she says.
“To mankind, food is a necessity for nourishment and progression, but it doesn’t come that easily in certain parts of the world that are suffering from different forms of disasters. We support this initiative to give back to the global community and to promote unity, especially to the people who are affected across Ukraine.”
In Manila, The Moment Group (behind popular restaurants such as Manam) knows how it can do its part to contribute even if it cannot offer help physically.
“We may be far away from the war in Ukraine, but it is just as crucial as the local efforts … to respond to their need for nourishment, especially when it is within our capacity to do so,” says Abba Napa, one of the company’s co-founders.
Chon says, with a grateful laugh, that chef Danny Yip of Hong Kong fine-dining Cantonese restaurant The Chairman “didn’t even let me finish my spiel [before] donating ASAP”.
“People like these renew my faith in this industry,” she adds.
For Yip, deciding to contribute was instinctive. “I actually wrote an article about Jose Andres back in the day,” he says, referring to his time as a dining columnist for the now-defunct Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily.
“He had just set up World Central Kitchen, and I thought it was amazing for a chef to go from the kitchen to a disaster zone. I didn’t expect him to be able to sustain it after all this time, and for it to become so much bigger than before. And now he’s even in the war zone.
“For a cook to be able to apply his skills to this situation is something really incredible. And there are not many who are willing to do it, either. So once [Cathy] mentioned it, I knew right away I would support and donate.”
Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery in Manila will be donating a percentage of his restaurants’ sales to support the organisation.
“War should have no place in our world today and we hope the simple act of giving and lending support to amazing organisations like World Central Kitchen will convey the message that sending our love and support is stronger than stirring fear and hate,” he says.
World Central Kitchen was set up in 2010 to support the people of Haiti after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the Caribbean country, killing 220,000 people, injuring 300,000, and leaving 1.5 million homeless.
Since then it has been a reassuring and constant presence after some of the most devastating global disasters – and one of Andres’ most enduring missions is to keep hope alive in the face of adversity.
“Food relief is not just a meal that keeps hunger away. It’s a plate of hope. It tells you in your darkest hour that someone, somewhere, cares about you,” wrote Andres of the organisation’s core mission.
“After a disaster, food is the fastest way to rebuild our sense of community. We can put people back to work preparing it, and we can put lives back together by fighting hunger.”
Restaurants supporting World Central Kitchen’s food relief efforts in Ukraine
Agora | Ando | Chachawan | Estro | Duddell’s | Hansik Goo | Little Bao | Louise | Mak Mak | Miss Lee | Mono | Neighborhood | Plaa | Ramato | Salisterra | 22 Ships | Testina | The Chairman | The Continental | Whey | Ying Jee Club
A Mano | Cibo |Ember | Grace Park | Gallery by Chele | Helm| Lusso | Made Nice | Mamou | Manam | Metronome | Ramen Ron | Savage | Toyo Eatery
Ahāra | Cicheti Group | Full Circle by J-man | Odette | 28 Wilkie