Meet the people strengthening Puerto Rico's food economy

World Central Kitchen first went to Puerto Rico just days after Hurricane María devastated the island in Fall 2017. After serving 3.7 million meals in the months following the storm, WCK made a commitment to remain on the island long-term to help in reducing the rate of food insecurity that exists in Puerto Rico. After WCK's emergency relief kitchens closed, we launched Plow to Plate, a program that helps foster the agricultural sector through direct grants to support the revitalization of farms, farming groups, and food-related businesses as they seek to reestablish their long-term capacity for food production, distribution, and sales.

In 2018, Plow to Plate awarded $547,000 to 35 grantees. Here are a few of the leaders making a difference in the local food economy.

Meet Abner Santiago & Marta Lopez of El Reverdecer in Ponce. Producing a wonderful variety of greens and vegetables, the farm has received WCK funding to build a walk-in cooler, repair the greenhouse that was damaged by Hurricane Maria, and build a fence around their property to protect their land from dogs, iguanas and whatever else takes a fancy to their crops. Abner and Marta often host WCK volunteers who want to spend a day or more helping Puerto Rico in its recovery and they are always commended for their hospitality and success in bringing their farm back from the destruction of the 2017 storms.

This is Tadilka Rivera of La Microfinca in Camuy. She became unemployed after Hurricane María and decided to turn her gardening hobby and passion into her full-time job. She moved from her small apartment in San Juan, where she sold produce from an urban balcony garden, and transitioned to a small family plot in Camuy. Tadilka used her WCK Plow to Plate grant to build a walk-in cooler and storage area. With the help of a walk-in cooler, she will be able to extend the life of harvested crops and have more time for them to reach consumers, restaurants and farmer’s markets.

Meet Gisela Iranzo of Finca Orgánica Anpetuwí in Toa Alta. Gisela was one of the many farmers who nearly lost it all after Hurricane María – her house, the chicken coop, water cistern, and countless fruit trees and crops. Her farm in Toa Alta was completely covered in debris. WCK’s grant funds were used to rent the heavy machinery needed to clear the roads and fields, purchase fruit trees to replace the lost ones, obtain construction materials to rebuild the greenhouse and chicken coop, and to replace the much needed water cistern.

Earlier this year, at the Clinton Global Initiative Action Network meeting on Post Disaster Recovery, WCK announced our commitment to operate Plow to Plate through at least 2023. After initially dedicating $2 million of donor support to the program, we pledged to raise another $2 million over the next four years to provide smallholder farmers with grants to increase their productive capacity and training to advance their access to markets. Below you can see Franco and Natalia of Cosechas Tierra Viva along with WCK founder José Andrés showing President Clinton and Secretary Clinton around their farm.

View our interactive booklet below to learn more about our 2018 grantees and their vision to make the island more sustainable and food-secure.