Long Beach

Celebrity Chef's Nonprofit Serves Thousands of Meals With Long Beach Eatery

As of Friday, World Central Kitchen reported serving over 617,000 meals in California.

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A kitchen in Long Beach is cooking up meals once again with the help of celebrity chef José Andrés' nonprofit, sending food to seniors affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The partnership between Andrés’ World Central Kitchen nonprofit and Lola’s Mexican Cuisine has a double benefit – jobs for workers and thousands of meals for those who need it most. The nonprofit, founded in 2010, has served meals to communities impacted by earthquakes, hurricanes – and now COVID-19. As of Friday, WCK reported serving over 617,000 meals in California alone.

In Long Beach, Lola’s Mexican Cuisine is adding to that number – 1,000 meals a day to four different senior communities.

"We've gotten so many reports from so many seniors saying it’s the best meal they’ve had all year," said Tank Gonzales, project lead for the WCK.

The nonprofit is also helping workers. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Lola’s owner Luis Navarro had to let go of 85% of his staff.

"Letting people know there’s no work, that’s tough," he said.

The staff laid off included long-time server Lupita Villegas. But, because of WCK’s efforts, she’s now working again.

"I called my mom right away, and I was like, 'Guess what, Lola's just called me, and I can go back to work,'" she said. "I almost cried!"

"It’s like a breath of oxygen to our business," Navarro said.

Andrés' nonprofit aims to purchase 1 million meals from restaurants, according to the WCK website, which estimates that 5 to 7 million jobs will be lost from the restaurant industry in the next three months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Besides the elderly, WCK is also providing meals to those in the Project Roomkey initiative, a statewide effort making thousands of hotel rooms available to shelter at-risk homeless persons during the pandemic. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that the nonprofit would donate three meals a day to people in the program.

"The best part of this for me is to be able to be the bearer of good news to so many people," Gonzales said. "It's one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done."

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