A year has passed since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. The effects were calamitous – 100% power loss throughout the island, flooding, and extensive property damage. Access to food and water was also limited, and that’s where Spanish chef José Andrés stepped in to help. Andrés teamed with local chefs and volunteers to serve what has amounted to more than 3.5 million meals.
Puerto Rico wasn’t Andrés’ first charitable project. In 2010, in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, Andrés founded World Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization focused on health, education, jobs and social enterprise. Since then, the organization has also taken on the role of providing immediate food assistance to areas in need. In his newly released book, We Fed an Island, Andrés explains how chefs’ abilities to manage staff, supplies and inventory translate well to disaster relief, “Those skills, it turns out, are incredibly useful in a disaster zone. Chefs understand how to create order out of chaos, just as they know how to control the fire to cook great meals.” World Central Kitchen not only provides meal assistance to residents in need, but also takes care of first responders, all while making sure the food is well-prepared and appetizing (Andrés encouraged volunteers not to skimp on the mayo when making ham and cheese sandwiches).
But charitable work doesn’t have to be on a national scale; restaurants can contribute to their local communities in many ways. One way is to partner with a school to share a percentage of a night’s proceeds or provide gift certificates for fundraisers. Another is to donate extra food to shelters or food banks. Offering discounts to military personal or senior citizens is always a positive way to give back.
Beyond having a beneficial impact on your community, charitable contributions have positive effects on your business, as well: sponsorship can be an effective marketing tool, philanthropy can increase employee morale, and, of course, the tax deductions don’t hurt!
Just as José Andrés started his non-profit based on his passion and talents, be sure to choose causes that inspire you. Do any necessary research to ensure that your contributions will be appropriately allocated. Soon you will have a great reputation for spreading goodwill in your community.