For a TEDx Mid Atlantic event, Michelin star chef José Andrés delivered a talk on the Puerto Rico food initiative and how the service is helping to rebuild the community in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Andrés is no stranger to food-based social initiatives, as he is currently a chair on the advisory board for LA Kitchen, a social enterprise that works to reduce food waste, provide job training and increase access to nutritious food.
Andrés begins his speech by detailing the destruction he witnessed when he first arrived on the island. The hurricane had left almost all of the infrastructure of Puerto Rico in a destroyed state, but the main concern Andrés noticed was the lack of food and the number of hungry people. While organizations like FEMA and other NGOs were still in the planning stages of delivering food, Andrés leveraged his contacts on the island and quickly launched an initiative to urgently feed the people of Puerto Rico. This eventually led to a community and chef run Puerto Rico food initiative that, at its peak, had more than 7,000 volunteers and was producing up to 150,000 meals per day.
Andrés closes out his TED Talk with an unexpected Q&A, in which he addressed further issues relating to his efforts in Puerto Rico. He also takes this time to recognize the efforts of FEMA, the Red Cross and World Central Kitchen, but acknowledges that the hierarchical systems in which they function under often hinders their ability. To remedy this system, Andrés cites his Puerto Rico food initiative as a way in which empowered people can solve situations without the hindrance of bureaucracy.