The United States Congress is considering a stimulus package to help sustain an economy threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes a request for nearly US$60 billion to support the airline industry.
But what if the government directed its efforts to feed its citizens? José Andrés has an idea, laying out a proposal called “America Eats Now” in a recent piece for The New York Times.
Andrés – a chef, restaurant owner, activist, and founder of World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to providing meals in disasters – suggests US$54 billion would allow the restaurant industry and delivery services make sure the most vulnerable are getting freshly cooked meals during this crisis.
Most of the restaurant industry is out of work due to the virus – an industry four times bigger than the airline industry in sales, and 18 times bigger in jobs, says Andrés. “Now is the time to stand up the private sector…to sustain the lives of our elderly neighbors.”
America Eats Now is a measure of spending that would employ out-of-work chefs to prepare fresh meals daily for those in need. With technological innovation from delivery companies and the repurposing of suburban and rural bus routes, millions of meals could be safely distributed. In turn, farmworkers, food suppliers, and delivery workers would then be able to support their own families, explains Andrés.
This public health catastrophe requires restaurants, empty school kitchens, arenas, and convention centers all be converted into community kitchens. “Subsidized by taxpayer dollars…[we need to] create save havens of food preparation and distribution,” says Andrés.
“Every industry group should make its case in this crisis. But only those of us who work in restaurants can help revive the economy while feeding and building our communities at the same time,” says Andrés.