Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.
José Andrés urged US lawmakers to funnel aid into Ukrainian infrastructure to help the war-shattered nation more effectively, rather than spending money on food donations.
“Large quantities of unwanted food are being delivered today with little regard for what the people of Ukraine can or want to eat,” the star chef told lawmakers on Friday. “There is only so much dry pasta a Ukrainian family needs.”
Andrés is the founder of World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that uses locally sourced food to feed those affected by natural and human-made disasters. He testified at a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee hearing focused on how to aid Ukrainians affected by the conflict and examine the effectiveness of international aid organizations.
The Senate in May cleared a more than $40 billion Ukraine aid package, which included billions of dollars in funding for international disaster assistance, as well as $760 million in global food aid through the State Department.
Roughly 13 million Ukrainians have been displaced since Russia invaded the country in late February, the United Nations Human Rights Council reports. Andrés and WCK started feeding Ukrainian refugees in Poland within a day of the first attack, and aim to rely on local sourcing, something the US can emulate, he said.
“That’s exactly the type of information we want to hear,” subcommittee chair Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) said in response to Andrés’s comments. “I’m not surprised because I think the situation here is is extraordinary, and we were not prepared for it.
“However, with your help, with the help of the private sector, with the advice of people who are actually doing the work, I think we can make the adjustments that you recommend,” he said.
Read More: The Fight to Feed the Ukrainian Resistance
Haiti as Bad Model
Andres used WCK’s work in Haiti after a 2010 earthquake to illustrate aid as an unsustainable solution. When the US fed Haitians in shelters in Tijuana, many lost jobs because they couldn’t sell their own rice and other food products, leading to increased migration.
“In a way of us helping Haiti, we created other problems,” he said.
Andrés also slammed the activities of the UN and its World Food Programme, saying he saw “no real presence” there, and contradictory policies.
“It’s telling that World Food Programme is bringing food in Ukraine, when at the same time World Food Programme is saying it needs food to export from Ukraine to feed other countries,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense. When you don’t have real boots on the ground, your decisions are often not the right one.”
Other witnesses echoed the sentiment.
“The UN Refugee response is 80% underfunded and donors—including the US—have channeled most funding through UN agencies rather than from frontline implementers,” the International Rescue Committee’s Amanda Catanzano said. “Volunteers, local government, and private sector resources are filling gaps heroically, but this will wane with time.”
The UN and World Food Programme didn’t respond to inquiries about Andres’s statements.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mia McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org