WASHINGTON — Acclaimed celebrity chef and philanthropist José Andrés inaugurated a resource center on Tuesday in the nation's capital to help furloughed federal workers with supplies and resources — from pet food and diapers to assistance regarding utility payments and financial and legal advice.
The resource center, operated by his non-profit, World Central Kitchen, is located next to the emergency pop-up kitchen at the U.S. Navy Memorial Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue where the Spanish-born chef has been providing meals for tens of thousands of federal workers. His popular pop-up effort even has a hashtag, #ChefforFeds Cafe.
At his new resource center, Andrés was visibly frustrated with the current shutdown impasse as crowds streamed through the facility.
"Usually we respond to emergencies, in America and around the world,” said the chef, mentioning the volunteer work the non-profit has done in Puerto Rico and Florida following hurricanes and California following the fires.
"This is a food emergency right now," Andrés added. "We cannot have a single mother with children, going hungry, because a government that is supposed to be supporting the people is doing the contrary, they're taking the people hostage."
Saying that Republicans and Democrats "have to put an end to this," the chef invited legislators to go by the center and the pop-up café.
Several Democrats went to the new center, including House Majority Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as Texas congressman Joaquín Castro, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
As the month-long shutdown drags on, the situation has been especially difficult for federal workers like Shawn Kemp-Latimer, a young mother with breast cancer. Her husband is also a federal worker, so they are not being paid.
"It's chemo or rent," said Kemp Latimer, explaining that her medical treatment involves extra costs that are not covered by her insurance company. She was worried about paying for bills, as they keep piling up.
Angela Johnson, who works for the FDA, will soon be having her fourth child. She is worried about how she will afford diapers for the new baby and she wants to make sure her insurance is in order ahead of her delivery.
"I may have to look for a new job to feed my kids. But who is going to hire a woman who is about to give birth?"