For the fourth time since the 2017 hurricanes, World Central Kitchen has supported Virgin Islands farmers and fishers, small food-related businesses, and non-profit organizations with grants to improve their operations and capacity to grow, distribute and sell their food.
World Central Kitchen established the Food Producer Network to help growers and fishers in the Caribbean and Central America affected by natural disasters and climate change. Their grants help build sustainable food systems and reduce reliance on food imports. Since 2018, over $4.1 million in grants have been disbursed to food producers in the region.
Through the Food Producer Network, WCK supplied grants to nine Virgin Islands entities in January. On St. Thomas, Healthy Harvest Farm, Joshua Quetel, My Brother’s Workshop, and Sugar Brown Farms received funding.
The St. Croix recipients were Maldonado’s Fishing, NJ’s Fishing, Rico’s Fish Market, Rodgers’ Farm, the Virgin Islands Farmers Alliance, and for the second time, Sejah Farm.
Sejah Farm is operated by Yvette and Dale Browne in the fertile central land of St. Croix. They raise goats, sheep, poultry, and eggs. They grow vegetables, and their farm has served as a co-op location for other farmers’ produce for sale.
The first WCK grant purchased a dual-system cold storage unit for Sejah with a walk-in cooler and freezer and a diesel generator. The current funding will create a learning center for local producers to gain knowledge and the skills to grow their businesses and advance food and nutrition security across the Virgin Islands.
Nate Olive, president of the V.I. Farmers Alliance, told the Source their $20,000 grant would fund a walk-in cooler to be built in the rain forest for crops grown by members of the alliance. The cooler will aggregate food for distribution to the Farm to School program, Community Supported Agriculture farm shares, the Farm Tienda/food stands program, and other markets that feature members’ produce.
Funding from WCK can be used for a wide variety of capital improvements such as chicken coops, upgrading food packing facilities, and installing irrigation systems. Funds also can be used for such purchases as ice machines, boat motors, lobster traps, and other fishing equipment. In addition to funding, WCK offers grantees technical workshops and helps beneficiaries through its volunteer network comprising local community members and visitors who provide community service.
“Through this network, we have supported 29 small businesses and organizations in the Virgin Islands. Nearly four years after launching FPN, we have concrete data showing that members of the Network can double production and sales within a year of joining the program. They are connecting with food producers from across the Virgin Islands as well as throughout the Caribbean, and are stronger today as a network than they were before individually,” Mike Hoffman, FPN director, said in a media release.
In addition to grants for growers over the last four years, WCK responded in March 2020 to a request from My Brother’s Workshop to help feed needy Virgin Islanders during the COVID pandemic. Over a few months, with local chefs, servers, and other volunteers, thousands of hot meals were prepared and delivered to Virgin Islanders through the organization.
World Central Kitchen was founded in 2010 by internationally respected chef Jose Andres. The non-profit, non-governmental organization has a goal of providing meals in the wake of natural disasters with the help of local chefs.