When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, José Andrés and World Central Kitchen began feeding an island – serving over 3.6 million meals under the banner of #ChefsForPuertoRico. Nearly a year later, World Central Kitchen is still feeding an island – by empowering local farmers, chefs, and suppliers to do so.

The next phase of our support for Puerto Rico, Plow to Plate, supports local farmers and businesses by awarding grants to build resiliency and grow their businesses to support a sustainable food economy. To date, we have awarded over $384,000 in funding, and will begin a new round of funding mid-September.

World Central Kitchen’s foray into agriculture has come from an understanding of how food relief is truly a “farm to table” process. Before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico imported 85% of its food. After the Hurricane Maria, that number jumped to 98%. Having a more sustainable food system not only bolsters the local economy, but helps to establish resiliency for future disasters.

In addition to financial support, World Central Kitchen has established an agricultural and business skills training program to equip farmers to participate in the Puerto Rican food system. Learning from our agricultural assessment of Puerto Rico that we sponsored with J/PHRO, we’re committed to creating spaces where farmers can learn from each other and get connected with food distributors and chefs in Puerto Rico.

This partnership has made all the difference for small family farmers in Puerto Rico, like Daniella from Siembra Tres Vidas in Aibonito.

“Hurricane Maria caught us right in the middle of moving to a new farm,” Daniella remarked. “Everything was gone. Everything! It took us around two months to return to the farm, since two of our team members lost their roofs and had to move, and the lack of cell phone communication made it really hard to coordinate between us.”

Today, Daniella’s farm is thriving, and there are only bigger things ahead. “Before Maria, we had decided to convert the farm into a nonprofit organization, in order to provide more educational and community services. We have finally been able to see those plans through. Beside offering volunteering,  internship opportunities and free workshops, we are currently offering a CSA program with various types of memberships, in order to serve a wider range of income brackets. We also plan to open a Farm Store where community members can buy our crops and those of other eco-farmers, and we are currently offering free refrigeration services to other eco-farms in our area.”

The next round of Plow to Plate grants opens on September 17th – view grant requirements here. We’re excited to see our partners continue to grow and continue the important work of feeding Puerto Rico. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates.