Since they aren’t using Nationals Park for baseball right now, the Washington Nationals and Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen decided to use it, “... as a cooking/distribution site for thousands of free meals,” as the club noted in a press release on Tuesday afternoon that announced, “1,000 meals were produced and distributed,” on the first day the new venture started up in the nation’s capital.
With the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic increasing food insecurity, the team and Andrés recognized that, “... low-income families would have immediate challenges related to food access.”
Once the operation is, “fully ramped up, the operation at Nationals Park will be capable of producing 50,000 meals each day,” which, “will be distributed by Andrés’ World Central Kitchen and Nationals Philanthropies (the new name for the team’s philanthropic arm),” who are, “... community partners working in the neighborhoods surrounding the ballpark and the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.”
As noted elsewhere in the press release, “[t]he Nationals have been in the food insecurity space for several years,” with the Youth Baseball Academy, “... providing meals to scholar-athletes; a weekly free/reduced fee fresh produce market for the community; community cooking and nutrition classes, and a community garden.”
“Nationals Park also partners with Nourish Now to distribute food from our kitchen at the end of every homestand to local low-income families.”
The club worked with Events DC, Nationals Park’s landlords, “[obtaining] permission to have several kitchens within the ballpark available for use by World Central Kitchen,” after they’d distributed, “free meals to [the YBA’s] Scholar Athletes,” along with, “... weekly free produce bags,” since the first week that schools in the area shut down amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I couldn’t be any happier to be here today at [Nationals Park],” Andrés said in a post on his own Twitter account announcing the opening of the new operation on Tuesday.
We may not have had @MLB opening day...but today we are opening @Nationals Park to feed our communities in need! Thank you to the Lerner family & @Nats4Good for helping make this happen. @WCKitchen is already cooking & will be here as long as we are needed... #ChefsForAmerica pic.twitter.com/gZWFEJ37cZ— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) April 7, 2020
“I really want to thank everybody involved, especially the Lerner family. We’ve used these stadiums before, arenas before. They are so important. They are part of the community in the good times, but they are also an important part of the community in emergency times.
“Inside [Nationals Park],” Andrés added, “we are using the kitchens, and we are going to be producing thousands of meals, tens of thousands, whatever Washington, D.C., the Mayor needs, whatever the metropolitan area, Virginia and Maryland, needs.”
“We didn’t have Opening Day,” he concluded, “but I think all the Nationals fans, they should be proud.
“This is like Opening Day. Today we opened the stadium to feed people in need, and for that we all should be so proud.”
“Chef José’s work with World Central Kitchen is so inspiring,” Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle wrote on Twitter. “We’re honored to share our home with you!”