Celebrity chef's team served 11,400 free meals to furloughed federal workers in Washington

Posted at 5:19 PM, Jan 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 18:19:03-05

(CNN) -- Renowned chef José Andrés and his nonprofit have served millions of free meals to needy Americans after such natural disasters as Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires.

Now, they are tackling a new kind of crisis by heading to cities across the United States to feed furloughed federal government workers and their families.

Andrés last week announced the campaign, #ChefsForFeds, and two days later opened a kitchen and café near the White House to feed those in need.

"Today we face another type of disaster in the United States. More than 800,000 federal workers are without a job. Many millions of Americans are gonna go through hard times," Andrés said in a video he shared on Twitter.

"We believe that no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children."

The pop-up kitchen has been a total success. On the 33rd day of the partial shutdown, Andrés' team on Wednesday managed to serve 11,400 hot meals, the team tweeted.

Andrés had announced a day earlier that the effort would expand to feed federal workers in 12 states. Another kitchen opened this week in Puerto Rico.

"In the next 48 hours #ChefsForFeds restaurants and food trucks are activating across the nation!!" Andrés' tweeted Tuesday.

Aside from food, Andrés' nonprofit World Central Kitchen offers essentials like diapers, pet food and cat litter.

'We should always come together'Andrés grew up in Spain and found fame as a chef in Washington, where his tapas restaurant, Jaleo, opened in the early 1990s and spawned a mini-empire of eateries across the city and the country.

When the shutdown began last month, Andrés promised free sandwiches at any of his restaurants to federal employees. Volunteers at the pop-up sites serve hot meals and package meals workers can take home for their families.

Andrés' effort isn't all humanitarian, though. He's also calling on politicians to end the partial government shutdown.

"This has a double meaning," the chef said last week. "We will have food for you to eat or food for you to take home, but I also hope this will be a call to action to our senators and congressmen and especially President Trump to make sure that we end this moment in the history of America where families are about to go hungry."

"We should always come together as 'we the people,' as Americans, bipartisan, Republicans and Democrats -- all Americans. So World Central Kitchen will be there for all Americans."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democratic US Rep. Joe Kennedy III and GOP US Rep. Will Hurd have all stopped by to lend a helping hand.

"Food brings us all together... Now we need our government to do the same! Thank you Rep. Hurd and Rep. Kennedy for joining us at the table," Andrés tweeted Wednesday.

World Central Kitchen has provided millions of hot meals to people stricken by disaster across the world, including survivors of Hurricane Florence, volcano survivors in Guatemala and migrants in Tijuana.