How Chefs are Giving Back to Hurricane Victims

In a series of a few weeks, unprecedented hurricanes have ravaged Texas and Florida and flooded bordering states of Louisiana and Mississippi. And while hurricanes are not uncommon this time of year, the damage Irma, Jose, and Harvey have inflicted is.

An ABC news report estimates that damages could amount to nearly $300 billion; Harvey’s impact on Houston has been declared the most expensive weather disaster in United States history.

And while these numbers themselves may seem formidable, the real devastation is the numbers of families without homes. Estimates suggest that 30,000 residents have been placed in shelters for Harvey alone.

Irma, which is still active, has already left nine dead and left millions without power. With homes, streets and businesses flooded and the hurricane season expected to continue at an unprecedented and devastating scale, livelihood, including food security, is under continual threat for millions of Americans.

Disaster and Food Security: Why Chefs are Integral to Relief Efforts

While this hurricane season may be unprecedented, the reality of natural disasters and its impact on food security, even in developed nations like the United States, is not.

The Food and Agricultural arm of the United Nations tracks the impact of natural disasters on local economies and access to food and shelter. Of all natural disasters, the UN has found that tropical storms rank among the top three most devastating in terms of impact the local economies.

But in layman’s terms, the recent hurricanes, in our country alone, can lead to nutritional crisis, as it did for Haiti early this past spring from Hurricane Matthew. Though our nation has more built in resources, food security and devastated economies are very real realities. Which is why it is important to act now.


The simplest way to help hurricane victims is through donations, whether that is money or food. While anyone can do this, chefs, and in particular, private and personal chefs are in a perfect position to do so.

Chefs in the Philadelphia area have collaborated together to donate to both the Houston Food Bank and the Hurricane Harvey Fund.  Collective groups, like restaurants, have also donated percentages of their profits to these and similar funds. Personal and private chefs, especially those who are connected with other chefs, have a means to make a big impact: my inspiring other chefs to also contribute, and to collaborate so that victims get the food and funds they need desperately.

Personal and private chefs, by working with clients outside of the restaurant industry, may have special insight and perspective to assess individual needs in a way big companies cannot. But make no mistake: even the newest chefs can make an impact by putting aside a little money or helping organize food donations to victims.

Connect to a Non Profit Organization

In addition to direct donations, chefs can also take advantage of non profit organizations available nationally. These organizations don’t just focus on donations, but also volunteers.

Take Mercy Chefs, an organization headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia. It was founded primarily to respond to natural disasters and emergencies. Unlike similar organizations, however, as the name suggests, Mercy Chefs operates through a faith based and culinary mission to bring quality comfort and service to those most in need.

And the best part? Personal and private chefs can get involved in a handful of ways. Chefs can personally volunteer their services in a kitchen or become a corporate partner in collaboration with others. The organization operates in some of the states most affected by disasters, but also has a branch specifically in New York.

Looking outside of Mercy, or even outside of disaster relief? Check out Cooking Matters, dedicated to ending childhood hunger, Three Goats, a New York based operation, or even just try to use your networking capabilities to connect with other chefs, through services like Chef’s Collaborative.

Use your Local Community

Inspire others in the food community, or even your clients to support those affected by the hurricane. Setting up fundraising events, or even spreading awareness about the impact of natural disasters on food security are all easy steps to make an impact during this calamitous time.

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