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World Central Kitchen serves hundreds of thousands of free meals to those impacted by Hurricane Ian

Two women in black World Central Kitchen T-shirts smile at camera
Cathy Carter
Volunteers Mary Clark and Marianne Burtnett of St. Petersburg serve food at World Central Kitchen's drive-thru site in Englewood.

The nonprofit relief group, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, has opened distribution sites in Sarasota and Charlotte counties.

On the Tamiami Trail in Englewood, past mangled metal business signs, downed trees and an army of utility trucks, a volunteer stands at the entrance of an Elks Lodge parking lot holding a large orange sign that reads free food, in English and Spanish.

As cars and work trucks pull in, other volunteers load them up with containers of pasta and meatballs, salad and bottled water.

The operation is run by World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit founded by celebrity chef José Andrés that provides free meals in the wake of disasters.

Woman holding orange sign that reads free food in english and spanish
Cathy Carter
WCK works with local restaurant and food truck partners to distribute free meals after Hurricane Ian.

Founded in 2010 following the Haiti earthquake, WCK was also on the ground in Puerto Rico, providing meals after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and in Florida’s Panhandle following Hurricane Michael in 2018.

The organization was first stationed in Tampa before the storm made landfall, but when Ian shifted south, the non-profit set up camp at the Minnesota Twins' spring training facility in Fort Myers.

The group has also opened distribution centers as far north as Sarasota County, including locations in Englewood and North Port, serving free meals from lunch until sunset.

Jason Collis, Vice President of relief operations for World Central Kitchen, says anyone who needs a hot meal is welcome.

"Whether it’s an evacuee or even somebody who is repairing their home and doesn’t have electricity and first responders as well.”

The charity group also teams up with local food truck and restaurant partners, including Sarasota’s Michael’s on East, Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Manatee County, and Tampa's Mr. B's Southern Kitchen.

WCK has opened a large field kitchen at the Minnesota Twins spring training facility in Fort Myers.
World Central Kitchen
WCK has opened a large field kitchen at the Minnesota Twins spring training facility in Fort Myers.

Collis says World Central Kitchen will remain in Southwest Florida for as long as needed.

"What we like to do is be here for the immediate response," he said. "Once restaurants are back open then we'll scale our response back because we don't want to take away from the local economy."

Since launching its operation post Ian, group leaders say they have so far served more than 300,000 meals to southwest Florida communities.

In addition to sites in Fort Myers and Cape Coral, World Central Kitchen distribution sites include:

  • Elks Lodge: 401 N. Indiana Ave., Englewood
  • North Port 12600 Tamiami Trail North Port
  • Walmart: 19100 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte
  • The Home Depot: 12621 S. McCall Road, Port Charlotte
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