How José Andrés wants to keep America fed

Chef José Andrés tells 60 Minutes his non-profit is feeding millions during the coronavirus pandemic, but the government needs a new agency for future crises.

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José Andrés has been busy helping to feed America during the coronavirus pandemic. The Michelin star chef and his non-profit, World Central Kitchen, have dished out nearly two-million meals across more than 100 U.S. cities.

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Anderson Cooper followed Andrés to see how the Spanish-born chef mobilized a network of restaurants to bring meals to front-line workers and those in need.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010. The organization says it has served more than 16 million meals in disaster stricken areas including Haiti, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.  

In a wide-ranging interview, Cooper and Andrés spoke about the security of the U.S. food supply, actions the government can take to ensure Americans are fed during the pandemic, and the power of empathy.

"Without proper distribution nothing works."

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José Andrés

On March 13, President Trump declared a nationwide emergency prompting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to join the national response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

FEMA, which is historically called upon to supply support following natural disasters, is one of the government agencies responsible for feeding Americans during the current crisis.

Andrés has worked with FEMA in other disaster areas.

"…From previous experiences, the men and women of FEMA are wonderful, but I don't believe they have the right people to be thinking if food is a necessity," Andrés told 60 Minutes. "And food becomes part of the emergency. And food can become a national security issue. Who is the person that understands what has to happen and who you have to call to make sure that these will not become a problem."

Andrés called on the U.S. government to create a new agency under the Department of Agriculture to lead a federal response to future food and hunger emergencies.  

"…there's always something that you never prepare for."

José Andrés adapts plan for coronavirus pandemic

In previous disaster areas, World Central Kitchen has relied heavily on a team of volunteers. 

With many small businesses temporarily closed and their employees out of work, Andrés is adapting his model to not only supply meals, but to also help restaurants retain some of their workforce. 

"One thing we're doing [at] World Central Kitchen, which we believe is very smart, as one of our ways to take care of food is we will partner with a restaurant," Andrés told 60 Minutes. "In many cities we already have hundreds of restaurants. We will negotiate the price per meal."

Andrés told Cooper his organization then works with companies like Uber, Caviar and GrubHub that already have systems in place to deliver some of the meals.

Lessons from Puerto Rico disaster relief

Lessons José Andrés learned from Puerto Rico disaster relief

In 2017, Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico days after Hurricane Maria. Frustrated with a lack of organized response, he and his team created a system to help bring food to as many people as possible.

"I arrived Monday right after the hurricane," Andrés said to 60 Minutes in 2017. "And I asked who is in charge of feeding the people of Puerto Rico? And they told me, everybody. Everybody's in charge. You know, when you have to feed an entire island, you need to have one person and one organization responsible."

Andrés told Cooper he took the lessons learned in Puerto Rico and amended the blue print to combat the current world crisis.

"We need to weaponize empathy"

José Andrés wants empathy to bolster the world

The Cambridge Dictionary defines empathy as, "the ability to share someone else's feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person's situation."

José Andrés believes the uncertainty facing many in the world can be harnessed into a positive. 

"If we don't have a big explosion of empathy in this country or around the world I don't know when we will," Andrés told Cooper.

Andrés hopes the current crisis will alter how society behaves in the future. 

To watch Anderson Cooper's story on America's food supply, click here.

The videos above were edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.