World Central Kitchen is serving hundreds of thousands of free meals to people impacted by Hurricane Ian

On Englewood’s Tamiami Trail, past battered metal store signs, fallen trees and an army of utility vehicles, a volunteer stands at the entrance of an Elks Lodge parking lot, holding a large orange sign that reads “Free Food” in English and Spanish.

As cars and work trucks pull in, other volunteers load them with containers of pasta and meatballs, salad and bottled water.

The operation is run by World Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization founded by celebrity chef José Andrés that provides free meals in the aftermath of disasters.

Woman holding an orange sign that says free food in English and Spanish

WCK is working with local restaurant and food truck partners to distribute free meals in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

Founded in 2010 after the Haiti earthquake, WCK has also been on-site in Puerto Rico, providing meals following 2017 Hurricane Maria and in Florida’s Panhandle following Hurricane Michael in 2018.

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The organization was first based in Tampa before the storm made landfall, but when Ian moved south, the nonprofit set up camp at the Minnesota Twins’ spring training facility in Fort Myers.

The group has also opened distribution centers in northern Sarasota County, including locations in Englewood and North Port, serving free meals from lunchtime until sunset.

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Jason Collis, vice president of relief efforts at World Central Kitchen, says anyone in need of a hot meal is welcome.

“Whether it’s an evacuee or even someone who is repairing their house and has no electricity and no first responders either.”

The charity group also works with local food truck and restaurant partners, including Michael’s on East in Sarasota, Anna Maria Oyster Bar in Manatee County, and Mr. B’s Southern Kitchen in Tampa.


WCK has opened a large field kitchen at the Minnesota Twins’ spring training facility in Fort Myers.

According to Collis, World Central Kitchen will remain in Southwest Florida for as long as necessary.

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“What we like to do is be here to respond immediately,” he said. “Once restaurants reopen, we will scale back our response because we don’t want to impact the local economy.”

Since the start of Post Ian, group leaders said they have served more than 300,000 meals to communities in Southwest Florida.

World Central Kitchen distribution locations include:

  • Elks Lodge: 401 N. Indiana Ave., Englewood
  • North Harbor 12600 Tamiami Trail North Harbor
  • Walmart: 19100 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte
  • The Home Depot: 12621 S. McCall Road, Port Charlotte


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