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Stew, schwarma, and spinach: the first meals Afghan refugees are eating as they land in America

After disembarking a red eye flight at 7 a.m. on August 24, Tim Kilcoyne, director of chef operations at the meal provisions nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, walked into Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Airport to witness Afghan children about the same age as his own son, four or five, “ripping open little bags of chips, and just taking an entire handful and shoveling it in their mouths, because they’re so hungry.”

He and his fellow staff made some phone calls, and by 11:30 a.m., 500 hot meals from a popular Lebanese restaurant in the D.C. area arrived at Dulles.

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For Afghan refugees making uncertain and life-altering journeys to the U.S., the passage is not straightforward. They face multiple flights, lengthy processing routines, and medical tests. Most endure it all without enough food. World Central Kitchen—the nonprofit founded by chef José Andres that provides food to communities in need—aims to make the transition just a bit easier for these people fleeing a new Taliban regime, with a hot meal. It’s a simple and modest necessity, but it makes a difference for these individuals as they recover and move onto the next phase of their journeys.
Though it focuses principally on helping provide food for those in need during natural disasters (it’s also on the ground in Louisiana, helping after Hurricane Ida), World Central Kitchen is poised to also respond rapidly to crises, such as this influx of refugees following the end of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. It’s perhaps an easier feat in Washington, D.C., the home of the organization, but it still relies on volunteer work and a network of chefs and restaurants that can jump into action immediately.

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