LA County Department of Health Services has a new partner in a critical time: World Central Kitchen, a global relief organization founded by chef and humanitarian José Andrés.

Over the last several years, the LA County Department of Health Services (DHS), through its Housing for Health Division (HFH), has helped provide much-needed funding to homeless service providers throughout LA County to reach people on the streets and to house many families and individuals in permanent supportive housing. Now, given the COVID-19 crisis, these people are experiencing a new vulnerability around food security. Since the crisis began, DHS has activated quickly to respond to emerging needs of the county’s most vulnerable residents, alongside service providers and a new partner—Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, which uses the power of food to heal and strengthen communities in times of crisis and beyond.

Through DHS HFH, thousands of previously homeless people in LA County now have a safe and secure place to call home, along with ongoing supportive services to help them thrive, but once COVID-19 hit the community, it became clear that even for stably housed clients, the pandemic was creating an entirely new challenge – that of food security. For clients with underlying medical conditions, age and other factors that made them more susceptible to COVID-19, the sheltering in place orders made the basic need of getting food a major barrier.

DHS HFH, along with longtime partner Brilliant Corners, a supportive housing nonprofit and operator of LA County’s Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, worked together to evaluate the need for food access across the sector, and to scale the response to serve those in permanent supportive housing, as well as our unsheltered residents. As the agencies worked to rapidly provide emergency food provisions to clients in supportive housing, they expanded the efforts to ensure that unsheltered residents, who are currently street homeless and in need of food and support, would also receive meals.

Through the generosity of chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, HFH has successfully launched a program to provide food to over 8,200 high-need households in permanent supportive housing and unsheltered individuals in LA County. “World Central Kitchen mobilizes urgently to get fresh, nourishing meals to those in need,” said Nate Mook, CEO of World Central Kitchen, “and we know that a plate of food is so much more than just a meal—it’s hope, it’s dignity, it’s a reminder that someone cares about you and that tomorrow will be better. So we are proud and honored to support and stand with neighbors throughout LA County.”

“Being able to partner with World Central Kitchen has made all the difference to get food to people who are struggling,” said Leepi Shimkhada, Director of Housing and Services at DHS. “We aligned so well with World Central Kitchen because we do whatever it takes to support our most vulnerable neighbors in a time like this, and so do they. We cannot thank World Central Kitchen enough for being able to mobilize so quickly.”

World Central Kitchen has donated meals, which are being distributed through the County’s existing Service Planning Areas to ensure they reach both housed and unsheltered individuals in need. Meals are being provided to clients through a sector-wide mobilization, with outreach teams spanning from LA County’s Department of Mental Health’s HOME teams, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s outreach teams, and dozens of case management providers who provide Intensive Case Management Services (ICMS) to those living in permanent supportive housing. For family households, Brilliant Corners is providing pantry boxes of nonperishables from Mother’s Nutrition Center that will provide hundreds of households with a week’s worth of groceries for the next several weeks.

This effort is made possible by José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, whose mission of being “first food responders” is nourishing our community during this challenging moment, and through the generosity of philanthropic partners including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, and the Ballmer Foundation.