Acrid smoke from the Camp Fire was only beginning to choke the Chico air during the first full week after the Camp Fire began churning through the town of Paradise and beyond. Safe from the flames in Chico, Tami Adams had already volunteered time sorting donations at the Chico Elks Lodge and felt compelled to do more as the need—and the blaze—continued.

“My heart ached for so many people that lost so much,” Adams said, “and I almost feel like I didn’t do enough.”

Three teenagers wearing masks and hair nets are helping by rolling up cutlery to be distributed with meals.

Tami Adams’ daughters and nephew roll cutlery to be distributed with meals prepared by World Central Kitchen volunteers.
(Photo courtesy of Tami Adams)

When she saw on Facebook there was a need to package food, the administrative coordinator for the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement recruited her daughters and nephew to join her. They spent four hours that day supporting World Central Kitchen in preparing meals for evacuees, first responders, and volunteers across the city.

“It was overwhelming and awe-inspiring to see our community come together and meet the needs of the Camp Fire survivors,” she said. “I just did my part, as we all did.”

A nonprofit started by famed chef Jose Andres, World Central Kitchen aspires to help feed those who need meals during times of catastrophe, a mission it has carried out after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, when the Carr Fire raged through Redding this summer, and following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in September, to name a few.

After establishing a mini-headquarters at Italian Guy Catering (the Chico business of Wildcat alum Paul Lema (Physical Education, ’76; Credential, ’94)), the nonprofit has delivered thousands of meals across the community in the last two weeks, whether handing out five-spice turkey soup to people in line at the post office or containers of roasted pork loin and butternut squash to shelter residents. Its volunteer roster continues to be peppered with Chico State students and employees.

World Central Kitchen put Adams, her crew, and dozens of other volunteers to work that day preparing salads for firefighters and first responders working in Paradise and at the Cal Fire headquarters at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds.

Using the assembly line approach she knows so well from event preparations for campus and alumni events, she helped organize cutlery and wrap it in napkins before moving on to carefully craft 1,500 salads to accompany meals throughout Chico and Paradise.

After hearing about Adams’ experience, Tania Miranda, coordinator of Alumni and Parent Engagement, signed up for the following day. Like Adams, she felt her contributions, however small, could help make a difference and lift morale.

“These people are struggling with losing everything,” she said, “and having a dignified meal makes it feel like they weren’t getting leftovers, that the meal was cooked for them, carefully.”

Dozens of empty soup containers are lined on a table surrounded by volunteers who will soon fill the containers with piping hot tomato soup.

Empty containers that would soon be filled with warm tomato soup prepared by World Central Kitchen volunteers for firefighters, first responders, volunteers, and those displaced by the Camp Fire.
(Photo courtesy of Tania Miranda)

The goal during her shift was to make 1,200 sandwiches for firefighters and first responders, as well as those volunteering at various shelters around Chico, including the animal shelters.

Miranda was part of an efficient assembly line of volunteers which first lined up dozens of bread slices and added turkey or ham, cheese, and a spread to each sandwich. She also helped package boxes of ravioli with roasted vegetables and tomato soup.

Both colleagues noted the care World Central Kitchen took in planning the menu, making sure meals were wholesome and nutritious, as well as beautifully presented.

“My hope is that the meals were able to warm up their hearts and lift their spirits,” Miranda said.

Additionally, children helping at the World Central Kitchen site (one of the only places volunteers under the age of 18 could help) helped acknowledge each meal recipient by decorating the sandwich-filled paper bags with encouraging slogans like, “You’re saving lives!” and “We love you!”

“It was so heartwarming because you knew that it was a kid that wrote that,” Miranda said. “I thought that was amazing.”