3 Meaningful Ways You Can Help Support Ukraine Right Now

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March 5: People wait to board an evacuation train at Kyiv central train station. (Source: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

Like so many of you, I’ve been able to think of little else these past few weeks than the nightmare currently unfolding in Ukraine. Barclay and I feel like we’ve been holding our breath each time news alerts pop up on our phone, afraid to look yet anxiously hoping for some miraculous turn of events that bring an end to the war. But as you well know, the headlines just continue to get more devastating, the death tolls and numbers of perfectly innocent people fleeing for their lives continues to mount, the political tensions rapidly continue to deepen and complicate, beloved family homes continue getting destroyed, and there still seems to be no end in sight.

In this season of life, especially, I can’t help but see our Teo in the faces of all of the sweet little ones from Ukraine whose images we scroll past daily — the children in train stations bundled up in their warmest winter coats clutching tiny backpacks, the children crammed in subway bunkers singing songs and trying to sleep amidst the raids, the children hooked up to IV poles in makeshift basement hospitals while terrified parents remain by their sides. It feels incomprehensible that we somehow get to feed our baby a warm meal and tuck him safely into a warm bed tonight when millions of parents suddenly, shockingly do not. The more we come to learn about the reality of what they — plus the millions more around the world affected by other humanitarian crises — are carrying right now, the more impossible it all feels to imagine.

But of course, the work of empathy for all of us right now is to try and imagine. To keep paying attention and bear witness to people’s stories, even when the news absolutely breaks your heart. To put ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors and genuinely ask what it means to love them as ourselves. To recognize what an undeserved privilege it is to have food, shelter and safety, especially in moments such as this. And to recognize the accompanying responsibility that is ours to do all we can to help. ♡

I know that you all care deeply about people and have likely already jumped in to help in countless ways over the past few weeks. But for anyone today who might be feeling “stuck” or helpless or unsure what else you can do next that might genuinely make a difference, I wanted to take a break from recipes today to offer some ideas for ways to:

  • learn more: articles and videos to better understand what led up to this conflict and the impact the war is having in lower-income countries around the world, especially related to issues of food security
  • act: a few do-able action steps (including some related to baking/cooking!) that can make a genuine difference
  • donate: while countless organizations are doing amazing work right now, I wanted to highlight three trustworthy orgs who are specifically doing the work of feeding people right now

A mentor of mine once said that one of the keys to endurance with social justice work is to regularly rotate between all three of these areas — learning, acting, donating. So if you’ve donated to an organization and now find yourself asking, “what next?”, take 5 minutes to call your local representative to advocate for refugee resettlement. If you spent the week organizing a bake sale at your kids’ school, take a quiet evening at home to study why wheat is such a critical topic right now. If you’ve been glued to the news cycle 24/7, take a pause to ask which article impacted you the most this week and donate the cost of your next meal (or much more) to a related charity.

On that topic, I wanted to let you know that Gimme Some Oven donated $5,000 to World Central Kitchen when the war began — an organization on the frontlines feeding people (while also still continuing other emergency and development initiatives around the world) whose work we have followed and respected for many years. And locally, here in Barcelona, Barclay and I are donating and working with various organizations and grassroots groups helping to support the hundreds refugees who have started arriving in the city this week. The crisis is basically all that anyone is talking about right now here, especially as thousands of Ukrainians are expected to settle in Spain this month, and it has been deeply moving to see how instantly and generously people all over the city have jumped in to help. I hope that continues on for many, many months to come.

Anyway. ♡ I am of course no expert on any of this, but if you’re also looking for new ways to stay involved, hopefully some of these resources might be helpful. As Glennon Doyle always says, “we belong to each other.” So here’s to doing all we can right now to take good care of each other.

A combine harvests wheat in a field in the Kyiv region in 2020. (Source: Valentyn Ogirenko/REUTERS)

Learn More

There’s no shortage of sources that you can turn to for daily news right now. But in addition to the following the headlines, it’s also feels really important right now for people to invest some time studying the history of what led up to this war, in order to better understand what’s happening and what’s at stake, as well as to help combat the flood of misinformation circulating right now. (So, so important to vet sources before sharing online right now.)

Like many of you, I’ve been so grateful for the brave and thoughtful journalism happening on the frontlines these past few weeks, and had dozens of articles bookmarked that I thought about sharing here. But since you all come to this site for food, I wanted to specifically highlight a few articles that we’ve read about the critical impact this war is already having on people’s access to food all around the world, and what some are saying the solutions may be to help.

Putin’s war on Ukraine, explained. (Vox) This 8-minute video is over a week old now, but it’s one of the best I’ve seen explaining the history between Ukraine and Russia and what led up to the invasion. If you’d rather read, this article also provides a good overview. Or if you’d like to go even deeper, here is a recommend list of books about the crisis.

• How Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will worsen global hunger. (The New Humanitarian) This article provides an excellent explanation of Russia and Ukraine’s roles in the global food system, which is a subject I find so fascinating. It also explains what a critical (and crushing) impact that this war in one country will have for people’s access to food in every country around the world, especially those who are already vulnerable to food insecurity.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is dire for world hunger. But there are solutions. (NPR) Highly recommend reading these 6 takeaways about the war’s impact on world hunger and potential solutions, some of which might surprise you.

• How to help Ukraine: prioritize food and migration. (Washington Post) Another thoughtful article about long-term sustainable solutions. I especially wanted to share this quote, in light of the Gimme Some Oven’s support of the community garden this year in Mali: With so much of Ukraine under siege, these supplies are a mix of blockaded or endangered, thereby creating hunger and malnutrition risk for grain importers. Increasing the productivity of agriculture, especially in poorer countries, now should be a higher priority. When food supply from one source such as Ukraine is shut off, poorer nations should have other supply options.” So encouraging — the project you’ve helped to fund is exactly what’s needed right now.

Why accepting refugees is a win-win-win formula. (Brookings) Finally, there is always a lot of fear that gets circulated in times like these about accepting refugees. So lest politicians try to convince you otherwise, please do your own research and know that the evidence is clear that welcoming refugees is a social as well as economic benefit to society, as well as the right thing to do as humans. Angelina Jolie’s editorial about “What We Owe Refugees” is also a good read on the topic.

Biskvit (apple cake), a Ukranian recipe by Olia Hercules that we made and enjoyed this week here in our home to #cookforukraine.

Take Action

Even if you live thousands of miles away from Ukraine, there are all sorts of ways that you can get involved and take action right now to help out. Here are a few simple, do-able (also delicious) options to consider…

• Cook for Ukraine: Ukrainian chef and food writer, Olia Hercules, and her best friend and Russian cookbook writer, Alissa Timoshkina, started the movement #CookForUkraine to encourage cooks to celebrate eastern European culture by cooking traditional meals for a supper club or bake sale and donating the proceeds to UNICEF through their JustGiving page.

• Bake for Ukraine: Similarly, Bakers Against Racism launched the initiative #BakeForUkraine for bakers of all levels to host bake sales and donate the proceeds to a number of relief organizations, including Sunflower of Peace and the International Rescue Committee.

• Support local journalism: To help ensure that accurate news can continue being reported in Ukraine, consider reading and financially supporting The Kyiv Independent, a Ukraine-based English-language newspaper. Support of their Patreon and GoFundMe pages will also help journalists to relocate, set up back-up offices and continue their operations from neighboring countries.

• Ask your employer to match donations: Consider speaking with your employer to ask if they would match employee donations to an NGO supporting Ukraine right now. Or check to see if a corporate matching program is already registered for your company here.

• Consider these 10 ways to support refugees: Welcoming refugees is a pillar of many faiths and quite simply the right thing to do as humans. If you’re looking for a specific action step to support Ukranian refugees right now, an email or call to your local representative to advocate specifically for an increase in the number of refugees welcomed this year is quick and easy (you typically just leave a short message or speak with a staffer) and makes a difference. As of the time that I’m publishing this post, the Biden administration has promised financial humanitarian aid but has still not officially increased the number of refugees the USA will accept.

• Volunteer or donate to local food banks: In times of humanitarian crises when donations to global NGOs go up, donations and help with local banks almost always go down. So if you’re watching the news and find yourself wishing that you could help out on the front lines, please know that this is an especially a great time to donate or volunteer with your local food bank to address issues of food insecurity where you live.

Ukrainian volunteers serve meals provided by WCK partners at the Medyka border crossing on Feb. 27, with more people arriving each day. (Source: World Central Kitchen)

Donate

A good reminder from Charity Navigator: “Following a disaster, it’s easy to see pictures or footage from the affected areas and want to give clothing and blankets to keep people clean and warm or food to feed the hungry. But, in reality, money is the most effective gift. A monetary donation allows the charities working on the ground to quickly purchase the supplies they need to address the ever-changing needs of those affected.”

There are so many amazing organizations and creative initiatives (hello, AirBnB, Etsy and BlaBlaCar) providing aid to Ukrainians to which you can give right now. But since I know most of you visit this site because of your love for food, I wanted to recommend three organizations that we trust and support who are specifically doing the life-saving work right now of feeding people right now:

• World Central Kitchen: I have long been a huge fan of Chef José Andrés and his work over the past decade developing World Central Kitchen, but I’ve been especially impressed these past few weeks by how quickly their teams of professional cooks have mobilized to serve hundreds of thousands of fresh meals in the conflict zones, while continuing to also uphold their emergency and long-term development work in many other countries around the world. If you want to “look for the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers’ mother famously said, follow along on their Instagram right now to see all of the many ways their local and international team members have jumped in to serve. (Donate here.)

• International Committee of the Red Cross: In the first days of the war, Barclay and I heard from multiple friends in countries surrounding Ukraine — and we’ve now been able to witness firsthand here in Barcelona too — that the International Red Cross has been doing an incredible job helping to organize the chaos and providing food, water, shelter and healthcare to refugees. We have donated to them personally and have really appreciated learning from their updates on Instagram as well. (Donate here.)

• World Food Programme: Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020, the WFP is the food aid arm of the UN dedicated to “saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.” Their work is widely-respected and we trust that they will be there to support Ukrainians for the long run. If you are interested in diving deeper into the issues of food systems and security, I also highly recommend checking out their podcast, Better Food, Better World. (Donate here.)

Strollers left at a Polish train station for parents fleeing war in Ukraine. (Source: Francesco Malavolta / AP)

Thank you for reading. Here’s to being the helpers in any way that we can. ♡



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